11/07/2003 1:00AM

Breeders' Cup merely scrambled the picture


PHOENIX - I've had two weeks to digest the 20th edition of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships and it has taken that long for a few things to set in. In no particular order:

The championship puzzles are usually solved on BC Day, but that may not be quite so true this year. Adoration's win in the Distaff left the race for older filly or mare close between Azeri and Sightseek. Probably all Sightseek had to do was run well. She bled, leaving her vulnerable to Azeri's carryover appeal from last year and her early-season exploits this year.

Halfbridled firmly established herself as not only champion 2-year-old filly, but also the biggest equine star of the day.

Among the 2-year-old males, you can't really expect Action This Day to be voted champion off this one win. Cuvee folded in the stretch. Chapel Royal had a big summer, but found the route game too much to handle. Still, he ran quite well to finish third in the Juvenile. Perhaps his breadth of work from start to finish will be sufficient.

Aldebaran was nowhere in the Sprint, but unless Cajun Beat comes back and wins the Malibu, Aldebaran still likely deserves the award off a stellar season. Prior to the Sprint, Aldebaran had finished behind only Mineshaft, Congaree, and Perfect Drift all year. He just picked the wrong time for his clunker, and as we all know by now, six furlongs doesn't cut it for him - at least not at the top level.

Storming Home may still be the slight favorite for male grass champion, despite finishing off the board - and suffering an injury - in the BC Turf. In his only other loss this year, he was disqualified from first in the Arlington Million, but was obviously the best horse. Storming Home is helped by the fact two horses won the BC Turf. If voters don't like Storming Home, how do they split hairs between Johar and High Chaparral when the camera couldn't?

And while I fully believe Islington is the most talented turf distance mare around, it's impossible to say that her Filly and Mare Turf win makes her more deserving than Six Perfections. After all, Six Perfections, a 3-year-old, was brilliant beating males. And shouldn't the Eclipse go for a year's work? If that's the case, Heat Haze, who was a nostril away from getting third in the Filly and Mare Turf, should still rate the narrow edge.

Finally, the 3-year-old picture. Peace Rules and Ten Most Wanted had a chance to get in the race, but bowed out not so graciously in the Breeders' Cup. Funny Cide's ninth-place Classic finish may well have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Empire Maker, who did not run in the Breeders' Cup, holds the head-to-head edge over Funny Cide. Eclipse Award voters must ask themselves whether Funny Cide's two-week ascent in May was enough to earn year-end honors.

Think again about superfectas

Every Breeders' Cup is a master class in handicapping and money management, even for those of use who profess to be professional handicappers and who have been doing this for 20 years. Every year I learn something crucial, and the most important wagering lesson I got this year came in the form of superfectas.

For the most part my wagering strategy has been a mix of pick threes, pick fours, trifectas, and exactas. But just look at the $1 superfecta payoffs: $1,017, $2,995, $39,223, $31,146, $18,834, $9,123, $1,116, and $1,905 (two payoffs for the Turf due to the dead heat), and, finally, $4,931.

Now you surely don't want to hear me say you could have had even one of these, but remember, in three of the races the winner was hardly a reach (Halfbridled, $6.60; Six Perfections, $12.60; and Islington, $7.80). Those three keyed supers of $2,995, $39,223, and $18,834. If you had followed a plan laid out nicely by Jim Quinn in the Oct. 26 edition of Simulcast Weekly one or maybe more of these could have been yours.

Quinn noted the huge superfecta payoffs on previous Breeders' Cup days, and recommended a few reasonable ways to build a ticket.

For example, using common horses in each spot, a ticket using three horses in first place, four in second, five in third, and six in fourth (3x4x5x6) would require an outlay of $81.

Sure, you need a decent bankroll to bet superfectas, but you need to hit only one to have a big day.

I can assure you I will be taking a much more serious look at this kind of wager next year when we all whoop it up in Texas.