09/09/2003 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup 2003 classes begin now


PHILADELPHIA - The Breeders' Cup is only seven Saturdays away. The eight exams on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita are not ones you can cram for. If you have not been studying all along, you've got problems.

Last year, I was more prepared than ever. I watched every prep race over and over and over. I had my Breeders' Cup CD in my laptop. I was more than ready. I won nothing.

It is just that difficult. Which, given the risk vs. reward inherent in these races, is how it should be.

There were no win bets in my 2002 Breeders' Cup portfolio. The pick six looked interesting. Chris Harn, however, the computer guy convicted of fixing winning pick six tickets on the Breeders' Cup, had other partners. He had far better insights than me. His partners were virtually clairvoyant.

Most of my action was in superfectas. My key horse in the Sprint was 16-1 Crafty C.T., a brilliant piece of handicapping. Sadly, I did not include Thunderello, trained by my good friend Scott Lake. There just seemed to be too much early heat for Thunderello. Wrong. Thunderello finished second at 48-1.

Crafty C.T. was a solid third. Even with favored Orientate winning and old reliable Kona Gold finishing fourth, the superfecta paid $23,663.70. I knew something, but not enough.

I needed Medaglia d'Oro to win the Classic. When you use one horse on top, any super becomes very playable. If, for instance, you used eight horses for second, third and fourth, the bet is 8x7x6 or $336 for a $1 bet.

Every longshot, including Volponi, was on my ticket. We all know how that ended. The super of Volponi-Medaglia d'Oro-Milwaukee Brew-Evening Attire paid $28,603.90.

The Mile has always been a super race.

This year, the Classic is coming up so difficult that the connections behind Funny Cide and Wando, winners of five of the six Triple Crown races in the United States and Canada, are considering the Mile.

Why? The Mile is never a free lunch. It is not easy pickings. For Exhibit A, I give you the 2002 Mile. Get out the videotape and check out the ride and trip of 4-5 Rock of Gibraltar. If this horse can get beat in this race, anybody can get beat.

Actually, bring Funny Cide and Wando on. Both would likely get overbet off their reputations. They could even be like 1998 Mile favorite Favorite Trick. Do you believe that horse went off at 5-2? He finished eighth and helped make a $19,736.70 super.

Still, there is logic to avoiding the Classic. When it looks like it may take a 120 Beyer Speed Figure to win the race, it might make sense simply to look elsewhere.

How would you like to get 5-2 on Mineshaft? Or 4-1 on Medaglia d'Oro? Or any price on Candy Ride?

When horses like Congaree, Empire Maker, and defending champ Volponi are almost afterthoughts, it tells you how tough this year's Classic could be.

And does anybody know anything about Moon Ballad? How good is Soto, exactly? Is Ten Most Wanted going to go forward from the Travers?

And what of unbeaten Grand Hombre? Can Toccet regain his 2-year-old form?

Much will happen between this Saturday and Oct. 25. Pay attention to all of it. Information is money. And money is how we keep score.