05/28/2003 11:00PM

Bop adds pop to quiet weekend

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NEW YORK - There is no way to sugarcoat it. With numerous top stakes races having been run on Memorial Day weekend, and another batch of top stakes to be decided Belmont Stakes weekend, the pickings are slim when it comes to Saturday's stakes action.

There are just two graded stakes races Saturday. The Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap, which has a strong-looking favorite in Lilac Queen, will be run under threatening skies at rain-soaked Belmont Park, and the Grade 3, $100,000 Louisville Handicap goes at Churchill Downs. There are only three other stakes on Saturday with six figure purses - the $100,000 Go for Wand at Delaware Park, the $100,000 Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park, and the $150,000 Plate Trial at Woodbine. The Plate Trial, a stepping stone to the Queen's Plate, attracted just six. With such a narrow selection to choose from, we will be looking at races at tracks that don't usually get much of a spotlight.

Turf Monster Handicap

The only thing that could spoil this from being a great betting race is the weather. Sure enough, the weather forecast for the entire Northeast Saturday threatens rain. But, you would hope management would go to extremes to make sure this race stays on turf, because stakes races as intriguing as this just don't occur that often at Philadelphia Park.

I like Bop, the beaten favorite in the Aegon Turf Sprint on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. He may have come up flat that day after a demanding victory a few weeks earlier when he returned from a layoff in the Yankee Affair at Gulfstream, in which he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 105. I expect a rebound Saturday, perhaps at inflated odds. There are two others in this field coming out of the Aegon - Testify and Abderian. With Testify's fast-closing third, and Abderian's big trouble line, the price on Bop, who faded to eighth, may drift up nicely.

Moreover, if the course does come up "off" Saturday, that will help Bop's cause. Speed on turf is never more dangerous than it is on off turf, and Bop should be no worse than second in the early running behind Sport D'hiver, who is now 11, and vulnerable off a long layoff.

Louisville Handicap

Kim Loves Bucky, the selection, takes a huge class drop here after competing in the strongest turf race run so far this year in this country, Hollywood's Jim Murray Memorial. Kim Loves Bucky finished fifth there behind Storming Home, Denon, and Ballingarry, each of whom would be 3-5 or less in this spot.

Kim Loves Bucky showed in his first start this year what he is capable of when more suitably placed, notching a repeat victory in the Elkhorn. He matched his career-best Beyer of 105 in that one. Considering he figures to sit a nice trip Saturday stalking pacesetter Quest Star, who struggled more than he should have winning his last, Kim Loves Bucky should run back to that 105 Beyer.

Go for Wand

Normally, I would try to beat a horse like Hennie's Song in a race like this. Hennie's Song is unbeaten and untested after three starts, but against questionable company, and she is meeting a different brand of animal Saturday. However, you can't be too dogmatic as a handicapper, and I am making an exception here. Hennie's Song is the pick.

Hennie's Song, backed by the red-hot Steve Klesaris barn, is opposed by fillies who are either out of form, questionable at two turns, or coming off suspect victories. Meanwhile, Hennie's Song is two for two over the track, the most recent win around two turns, and should work out a good trip from the post 2.

Boxer Girl should be included in exotics, and I would have picked her had she drawn better than post 10. Boxer Girl had her win streak snapped last time in the Cicada Stakes, but she finished third behind Cyber Secret, who returned to drill champion Storm Flag Flying in the Comely, and Roar Emotion, who returned to win the Black Eyed Susan.