04/10/2002 11:00PM

Big day can get huge with pick 3, 4


JAMAICA, N.Y. - The first big day of racing in New York this season offers the Big 3 Pick 3 linking the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass, and Arkansas Derby.

The Wood is also part of Aqueduct's pick four along with a pair of seven-furlong graded stakes, the Bay Shore for 3-year-olds, and the Grade 1 Carter Handicap for some of the country's top sprinters.

These races are highly competitive, and the multi-race exotics have the potential to pay handsomely for those who can successfully navigate their way through the sequences.

In chronological order:

Bay Shore

Starts the pick four on Aqueduct's last four races, followed by the Wood, Carter, and a full field of a dozen $50,000 claimers. (The claiming race is led by Rich in Glory, who I have selected as my best bet on the day's card.)

The Bay Shore's pace should be hotly contested. City Sharpster and Whatasaint have a tall order as they step up sharply in class, but their duel in an entry-level allowance on Mar. 22 was hellacious, and the race received Quirin-style figures of 110-103 - very fast early but slightly slower than par late. They are unlikely winners, but will make their presence felt in a big way while pressured by Roman Dancer, an invader from California who owns two of the field's three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

Both of Roman Dancer's top figures, a 107 in the Sunny Slope and a 106 in the San Miguel, came via stalking tactics at six furlongs, but he has finished out of the money in two previous starts at the Bay Shore distance. In his defense, he got caught up dueling for the lead each time, so those failures may be forgivable.

Listen Here and Monthir, one-two in last fall's one-mile Nashua, project to occupy spots right behind the leaders along with Warners, the $1 million colt who tuned up for this at Ocala last month. Using Listen Here, Monthir, Warners, and Roman Dancer should keep you alive in the pick four.

Wood Memorial

Second leg of Aqueduct's pick four, and the first leg of the Big 3 Pick 3, this has come up as the spring's deepest and most intriguing Kentucky Derby prep. On the surface it seems like a good spot to go shopping for a price, because the two top-figure horses, Buddha (106) and Medaglia d'Oro (107), with one route race each, are the most inexperienced horses in the field.

But if forced to choose between talent and experience, take your stand with talent. No one else is within a dozen Beyer points of Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro, and if either colt reproduces his "A" race, he figures to win.

Medaglia d'Oro, it says here, is more likely to do so. Not only did he earn a significantly faster pace figure than Buddha, he did it against a much tougher field. Buddha beat nothing on the Florida Derby undercard while running over the best part of the track, and he faces stakes-class colts for the first time.

I'm singling Medaglia d'Oro in the pick four and the Big 3 Pick 3.

Carter Handicap

The Carter was repositioned on the New York Racing Association racing calendar this year, and as a consequence it is the year's top sprint. How tough is it? Consider that Rusty Spur comes off a last-race Beyer of 112, and he is rated as a rank outsider at 15-1 on the track's morning line!

In terms of Aqueduct's pick four, this is the place to go shopping, because Snow Ridge, the highweight and morning-line favorite, looks exceedingly vulnerable.

Snow Ridge's 117 Beyer two starts back came on a "wet-fast" track that most East Coast racewatchers would label sloppy, and the figure is unsubstantiated by any other lights-out performance.

Snow Ridge's win in the San Carlos, moreover, was absolutely gift-wrapped thanks to a field devoid of any other early speed. Severe pace opposition in the Carter can be expected from the speedy Rusty Spur, and Run Kush Run, who is on a kamikaze mission for entrymate Say Florida Sandy. Snow Ridge, a bad fifth when last seen in New York four months ago, may be exposed as counterfeit here.

The four I'll use in pick fours are Affirmed Success, on the one-last-hurrah theory; Dream Run and Burning Roma, one-two at Gulfstream last month; and the European import Shibboleth, a Frankel-trained full brother to Harpia, a Euro who successfully made the transition to dirt for John Kimmel in the late 1990's.

Blue Grass

Otherwise known as Harlan's Holiday-Booklet IV, with Booklet holding a 2-1 edge. Harlan's Holiday, much like Monarchos last year, has nothing to prove after his big win in the Florida Derby, and won't be fully cranked for this as Kenny McPeek just looks for a nice "bridge race" to Louisville.

Much was made of the fast pace that cooked Booklet in the Florida Derby, and what compounded matters was that he was pinned to the deeper inside footing. The rail is 1-5 to be much more resilient at Keeneland, and this is Booklet's prime objective of the spring, which gives him the edge.

Arkansas Derby

The field contains no Derby hopefuls of significance, but is a good competitive betting race in which any of six could win without it being termed a surprise.

The six to use, in post order, are Dusty Spike, It'sallinthechase, Wild Horses, Windward Passage, Mr. Mellon, and Private Emblem.