05/24/2006 11:00PM

Big Apple Daddy solid play off last


NEW YORK - Although there are no blockbuster stakes on the schedule when the Memorial Day weekend begins Saturday, there is an interesting mix of feature races, with the Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap for fillies and mares on the turf at Belmont Park the biggest of the day. So let's feature a couple of tracks that are often overshadowed by the major racing centers.

Donald LeVine Memorial

This is a very competitive race that should offer good betting value, even though Park Avenue Ball, who figured to be one of the favorites, if not the chalk, will probably pass this in favor of a spot at Monmouth Park.

Park Avenue Ball or not, Big Apple Daddy is a solid play as he comes into this off perhaps the best performance of his career. That was a close third in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, in which Big Apple Daddy was beaten less than a length for second by Sir Greeley, who came back to win the Westchester Handicap. Some might argue that Big Apple Daddy moved up on the sloppy track he caught in the Carter, but his victories in his first two starts this year, which came over fast tracks at Aqueduct, were of similar quality Beyer Speed Figure-wise. Big Apple Daddy comes into this suitably fresh, has worked very well since the Carter, is backed by a barn that has a high success rate shipping from New York to Philadelphia Park, and finds an abundance of early speed to set up his late run.

Little Thunder should be used in exotic wagers. Although run off his feet early when soundly beaten in the Westchester last time out, his big win in the Artax Handicap two starts back was not a fluke. The horse Little Thunder crushed in that race, Nightmare Affair, came back to win the Ponche Handicap, beating Park Avenue Ball.

Go for Wand

Diamond Spirit drops in class after competing in graded stakes in his last two starts, the first of which was a sharp second in the Herecomesthebride Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream. Since none of her opponents in this race has competed in a graded stakes, Diamond Spirit deserves to be the favorite. But she can be beaten by Unbridled Belle.

Unbridled Belle ran the best race of her career last start, whipping an allowance field over the same Delaware main track that she races on Saturday by a handy eight lengths. This is, of course, a tougher spot. But what is interesting about Unbridled Belle is that her big recent win came off a freshening, suggesting she may have come to hand for trainer Todd Pletcher and might be capable of improving a good bit more, a notion supported by her excellent workout early this week at Belmont. When Pletcher ships for stakes like this, he seems to always win, but at puny odds. That won't be the case this time. Unbridled Belle's price should be quite acceptable.

Winning Colors

For an ungraded stakes with a modest purse, this race at Churchill came up tough. Reunited is working like she's ready for a monster effort, Hot Storm is looking for her sixth straight win, and Flying Falcon comes off a huge score at Keeneland. I'm going to try and beat them all with Atlas Valley.

As tough as this race is, Atlas Valley is coming out of a tougher one, the Humana Distaff - and she ran well, finishing fourth behind two talented Southern California-based mares in Pussycat Doll and Behaving Badly. Atlas Valley is primed for a peak performance third start back off a layoff, and she might get the kind of contested pace that resulted in her career-best win at Churchill last fall.


Delaware Park: Go For Wand Stakes
Fillies, 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles

Approximate post: Eastern-3:54 p.m., Central-4:54 p.m., Mountain-5:54 p.m., Pacific-6:54 p.m.; Stanton, De., forecast: Slight chance of morning showers, 83¦

1Summer Romance8044696-1
2Diamond Spirit7887849-5
3Rasta Farian7567768-1
4A Bit of Pressure8270594-1
5Lady of Clare92764412-1
7Unbridled Belle7870716-1
8Elliot's Exchange79757315-1

Track morning line odds

Philadelphia: Donald Levine Mem. Handicap
3 and up, 7 furlongs

Approximate post: E-3:50 p.m., C-4:50 p.m., M-5:50 p.m., P-6:50 p.m.; Bensalem, Pa., forecast: Slight chance of morning showers, 83¦

2Park Avenue Ball93901035-2
3High Value Targe95756912-1
5Distinctive Trick75427015-1
6Big Apple Daddy10098965-1
7P. Kerney99102884-1
8Little Thunder851101036-1
9Fitting Tribute8889988-1

Track morning line odds

Churchill Downs: Winning Colors Stakes
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 6 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-x:xx p.m., Central-x:xx p.m., Mountain-x:xx p.m., Pacific-x:xx p.m.; Louisville, Ky., forecast: Sunny, 87¦

1Ever Elusive9694884-1
2Atlas Valley9564955-1
3Malibu Mint-747220-1
4Hot Storm10393975-2
6Flying Falcon10464648-1
7Ten Carat Ruby60977812-1
8Ebony Breeze88868610-1

Odds by Steve Klein