02/01/2007 1:00AM

Brazilian capable of Suwanee upset


NEW YORK - Saturday is a huge day of racing at Gulfstream Park, and a big day at Santa Anita as well. At Gulfstream, the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, featuring 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, heads a card that also includes five other graded stakes, including a pair of interesting races for 3-year-olds, the Holy Bull and Swale. Santa Anita's card features three stakes, topped by the Grade 2 Strub and a noteworthy stakes for 3-year-olds, the Sham.

Suwanee River Handicap

Naissance Royale figures to be a strong favorite. She comes out of the best races, she almost always runs well, and she has the best Beyer Speed Figures. But Naissance Royale was odds-on to win her last two races, and she finished second in both. In fact, Naissance Royale is often involved in close decisions, and she doesn't win a lot of them. It is possible that Naissance Royale is much better than those she faces Saturday. But I like playing against a heavy favorite whose will to win is in question.

I'm going with Brazilian. Clearly, Brazilian has had more than her share of physical problems. She's 5, and has managed only seven starts while sporting almost as many layoff lines in her past performances. But Brazilian was cut out to be a nice turf filly. She showed a lot of potential during a three-race win streak earlier in her career, and on New Year's Eve she came back from an eight-month absence with a solid win in a small stakes at Calder. The fact that Brazilian is now able to put two starts relatively close together, a rarity for her, suggests she is doing well physically. If she can improve just a bit Beyer-wise off her recent comeback, which is certainly plausible, it might well be enough to win this.

Strub Stakes

Although he won't be a great price, Midnight Lute is a strong play to use this race as the vehicle for his well-deserved coming out party.

Midnight Lute would already be more well known were it not for tough trips in the first two legs of the Strub series. He missed his break and made two moves in the Malibu, and was beaten only two lengths in finishing third. Given his pedigree and running style, Midnight Lute looked strong stretching out to two turns most recently in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup. Sure enough, he loved the added distance. In fact, he ran about a half-furlong farther than anyone else in that race after being caught very wide around the first turn and only a little less wide around the far turn. Yet despite that significant ground loss, he lost by just a nose.

It's hard to envision Midnight Lute losing nearly as much ground in this smaller field. While he should be the favorite, the presence of Brother Derek and Awesome Gem should help make his price palatable.

Donn Handicap

Of course Invasor is the best horse in this race. But the reality is, Invasor is using the Donn as a prep for the Dubai World Cup, a race his owner certainly wants to win since he is a member of that country's ruling family. In other words, while his connections would love to win Saturday, Invasor will not be asked to empty his tank, not with his main goal still lying ahead.

Magna Graduate is the play to spring a mild upset. It took Magna Graduate a long time to recover from his fourth in last year's Dubai World Cup, but at least he did. His romp last time out in the Queens County Handicap in early December was accomplished in legitimately fast time, and he figures to sit a dream trip here stalking Barcola's pace.

And if I'm wrong, and Invasor wins, I won't be too broken up over missing out on a $3.40 winner.