10/23/2008 11:00PM

The Beyers it takes to win

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PHILADELPHIA - Whether you are looking at the fifth race at Penn National or the Breeders' Cup Classic, one basic question never changes: What is it going to take to win the race?

While that may not be so apparent at Penn, there is a 20-year history that gives us a pretty good idea about the Breeders' Cup, especially for those races that have been around since the start. If the past is indeed prologue, the past is not a bad place to look to try predicting the future.

We have Beyer Speed Figures for every BC race since 1988. Also, we have the par for the seven divisions that have been around since 1984. How you use this information is up to you, but, if you can find a horse that has beaten the par a number of times in a race against a group that has hardly ever beaten par, that is a horse to consider very strongly.

The BC Sprint is just such a race this year. The par is 114. Fabulous Strike has beaten that par four times. Midnight Lute is the only other horse in the race that has ever beaten par. And he did it just once, in last year's Forego, when he got that freaky 124, a figure he never approached before or since.

Historically, the greatest sprint performances are Artax (124), Cajun Beat (120), Squirtle Squirt (119), and Safely Kept (116). The 2008 winner won't have to beat those numbers. In fact, the winner probably won't even have to get to 114 to win, but, if you can project a horse there, rush to the windows.

The best Beyer in BC history is 124. It has been done three times, once by Artax, once by Ghostzapper (2004 Classic) and once by Sunday Silence (1989 Classic). The Classic, as it should, has produced the best set of historical Beyers - Skip Away (120), Black Tie Affair (120), and Alysheba (122).

Last year, Curlin got a 119 when he dominated the Classic and clinched Horse of the Year. His three North American main-track Beyers this year are 110, 112, and 111 - several lengths off his best and the Classic par of 117.

In another year, you might try to beat Curlin, given the slight Beyer regression. But then you watch him race, watch him train, just look at him and then consider the opposition, with its apparent Beyer ceiling of less than 110. Unless one of the Euros is going to love the Pro-Ride surface or Fairbanks runs back to his 115 from March 2007, the Classic is again going to be all about Curlin.

The Ladies' Classic par is 108, a figure Zenyatta hit exactly in her last two starts, and a number only Hystericalady, among her opponents, has ever hit. As good and as consistent as Hystericalady has been, the Lady's Secret result when Zenyatta cruised by her was no fluke. And Hystericalady does appear to be a few lengths off her best form on synthetic surfaces.

Zenyatta still has a ways to go to catch up to history. Inside Information (119) has the best Beyer in the old Distaff, followed by Bayakoa (115), Personal Ensign (115), and Jewel Princess (114).

There is not a horse in the Juvenile that has even flirted with the race par (99), so good luck with that race. Interestingly, the three best Juvenile Beyer performances came in the last three years, topped by War Pass (113). Street Sense got a 108 in 2006 and Stevie Wonderboy a 104 in 2005. Not sure what that means for this race, but if any of those horses gets a 100, it will mark a dramatic improvement that, at this stage, is quite difficult to predict.

The Juvenile Fillies is similar to the boys race. The par is 95. None of these fillies has even hit 90. Last year, Indian Blessing earned a 97 when she won her maiden and hit the par with a 95 when she won her BC race.

Tempera's 107 is the best Beyer in this division. Sweet Catomine and Storm Flag Flying each got a 102.

The best two BC Turf performances came, not surprisingly, from Euro grass stars, Daylami (118) and Fantastic Light (117). Nothing like that is going to be required this time. Red Rocks got a 111 when he won the Turf in 2006. Better Talk Now got a 111 when he won it in 2004. Grand Couturier improved his lifetime Beyer by 7 points when he got that 112 in the Sept. 27 Turf Classic. That figure is a lot more relevant than those of the two former Turf winners, but you wonder if Grand Couturier can do it again.

Trying to translate Euro form to Beyer Figures is not an exact science, but you can be sure Soldier of Fortune, given the company he has kept and the races he has won, can do the number it will take to win.

The BC Mile par is 111. You have to go all the way back to 1988 to find the best Mile Beyer. Yes, it was the brilliant filly Miesque (118). If you are not yet convinced Da Hoss's win in 1998 was the greatest training performance in BC history, consider that the horse got a 114 Beyer when he won in 1996 and a 113 in 1998. That is knowing your horse and getting him ready to peak when the money is on the line.

Kip Deville got a 108 when he won the Mile last year. Any horse that can get to 110 is just about a cinch this year. Goldikova surely looks like a 110 kind of horse, as her lines are every bit as obvious as Soldier of Fortune's.

The Dirt Mile has been run only once, but the precedent has been set. Corinthian got Curlin's 119 when he came through the darkness to win the race last year. A 110 would be plenty good enough this year.