01/10/2008 1:00AM

Blackberry Road at 3-1? Grab it


NEW YORK - Santa Anita already had a Grade 2 stakes doubleheader on its Saturday schedule. But it will now be a Grade 2 tripleheader with the San Fernando and San Rafael now being joined by the rescheduled San Pasqual Handicap, which was a victim of last Saturday's cancellation. Elsewhere, there are six stakes at Fair Grounds, while the Gulfstream Park feature is the Old Hat Stakes.

Lecomte Stakes

Blackberry Road blossomed in his last two starts last year when given the opportunity to go two turns, and probably should have won both of those races. If he had won them, however, his odds in this event would be so small that I wouldn't be talking about him. Blackberry Road's tough luck means his price should be acceptable now. If he goes off favored in the vicinity of 3-1, it would represent betting value.

Blackberry Road's first attempt around two turns came in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, which was won by Texas Fever, who is also making his 3-year-old debut in this race. But Blackberry Road turned in the far better performance. Blackberry Road was in ideal striking position nearing the far turn, racing a close fifth, when he was shuffled back on the rail through the turn by a tiring pacesetter. He was shuffled back so badly that he was nearly last turning for home, and then he was checked and angled out not once, but twice in search of racing room. When he finally got clear, Blackberry Road finished strongly to finish third, beaten less than three lengths by Texas Fever, who capitalized on a perfect trip.

Blackberry Road made his most recent start in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and was so far back going down the backstretch it looked like he was in another county. He again finished strongly, only to narrowly miss to another perfect-trip winner, Anak Nakal. Blackberry Road doesn't have to be nearly that far back early, and there is ample speed Saturday to set up his late run.

San Pasqual Handicap

I wrote about this race in last week's Warrior. If I liked it enough then, I can certainly go back to it. The composition of the field is almost exactly the same as it was in its original form, with the exception of Hello Sunday being replaced by Arson Squad. That could spell trouble for me, because I have chased Arson Squad a couple of times to no avail. Whatever. I still like Heatseeker.

Heatseeker won't be close to the 30-1 he was when he won last month's Native Diver Handicap, but that upset indicates trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has figured out his hole card. Since moving into Hollendorfer's care three races ago, Heatseeker has won both of his starts on synthetic surfaces, and those were the first two times this horse finished first in this country. He also seems handy enough to get first jump on the other most accomplished horses in this race, Molengao, Racketeer, and Arson Squad, who seems to have lost the positional speed he once had. Getting first jump could prove key here, for there is very little pace in this race, and I don't think the two who figure to be prominent early, Well Armed and Zappa, are good enough.

Old Hat Stakes

Lovely Isle doesn't boast the class lines some others in this race do, but that may not matter. She was absolutely freakish winning one of those starter allowance races restricted to horses who won a maiden race for a tag last month at Aqueduct, remaining perfect after two starts.

Lovely Isle cruised right to the front, set fast fractions, and ran away to a 16 1/2-length score, posting a final time fast enough to earn a Beyer Figure of 101. The crazy thing about it is she easily could have set faster fractions, earned a higher Beyer, and won by even more if she were not under a hammerlock virtually every step of the way.