12/17/2006 1:00AM

Big Beyer edge doesn't guarantee a win


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rate Mistical Plan on her recent Beyer Speed Figures and she charts out to be much the best in Sunday's Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Based on the last race numbers of each filly in the field, she is 16 Beyer points better than the second highest rated filly in the field. At the 1 1/16 miles of the Starlet, that makes her more than nine lengths superior to her opponents.

If that isn't enough, Mistical Plan did not enjoy easy trips while earning those strong numbers. She dueled through a swift pace en route to her 7 1/4-length win in the seven-furlong Cover Gal at Santa Anita two races ago, good for a 94 Beyer. Next time out Mistical Plan battled most of the way through a one-turn mile in the Grade 3 Pocahontas at Churchill and finished second while earning a 92 Beyer.

So Mistical Plan can't lose, right?

Actually, the issue isn't as clear cut as that. Although Mistical Plan handled the move from seven furlongs to a mile well enough, she has never been asked to race around two turns. It remains to be seen if she will be willing to relax enough to handle the extra turn and the added distance.

It won't be easy for her to relax since the probable pace scenario will work against her. One of her Starlet opponents, Tizthen, carved out a quick 21.73- and 44.70-second pace while loose on the lead going seven furlongs in the Moccasin before weakening to fourth. She is drawn comfortably in post 2, and figures to grab the rail and the lead during the short run to the first turn. Mistical Plan will have to work much harder while stuck out in post 12. Once she gets rolling fast enough to overcome her disadvantageous draw, she might not be in the mood to be tractable. On the other hand, if she is restrained somewhat during the run to the first turn, she will be forced to lose ground while racing wide. Either way, her post position will hinder her.

The track bias might turn out to be the determining factor in the outcome of the Starlet. The bias of the synthetic Cushion Track can be inconsistent. It was heavily biased towards early and tactical speed on Dec. 7. From seven races on that surface that day, one race was won on the front end with four others taken by the horse that was second at the first call. On Dec. 8, four of the six races on Cushion Track were won by horses who were among the first three to the first call.

Things changed drastically on

Dec. 9. Six of the seven Cushion Track races were won by horses who were fifth or farther back during the early going. The track played fair on Dec. 10 and 13. Then off-the-pace runners had an edge on Dec. 14.

If the Cushion Track bias flatters her early speed, Mistical Plan might be able to overcome her disadvantageous post position and the lively early pace. But if she receives no assistance from the bias, or if it works against her, Mistical Plan's nine-length advantage on paper could disappear.

Who will be the upsetter if that scenario comes to pass?

Mystic Soul gained 15 lengths and five running positions when she rallied to finish second in the Miss Grillo at Belmont two races ago. She changed tactics and was up close to slow fractions last time on the grass in the Grade 3 Miesque. She was outkicked late and finished a close second. If she likes Cushion Track and returns to the off-the-pace or closing tactics used in her first two races, she can be the one to capitalize if Mistical Plan regresses.

As for the others, Hucking Hot has the right running style, but she finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Mystic Soul last time. Down was a closer when she lost her debut by a nose in a sprint at Belmont. Her 76 Beyer wasn't bad, and improvement is likely with experience second time out. I like her chances better than those of most maidens who step up to try Grade 1 company. She will need a patient ride as she stretches out. Black Hills closed ground in her last two races, both sprints. She likes Cushion Track and will be a major player if she is willing to take back early.