10/17/2007 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup picks close out with Curlin

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - A week out from the Breeders' Cup, here are some selections from a rather enthusiastic observer.

Filly and Mare Sprint: Provided La Traviata runs against the boys in the Sprint, I expect this race to be won by another 3-year-old filly, Prioress and Test winner Dream Rush. I have always liked playing 3-year-old fillies against their older counterparts in the fall. They more than hold their own.

Juvenile Turf: With the emphasis in North America on dirt racing for juveniles, the American horses could be outgunned by their European rivals. Of those invading from across the pond, Strike the Deal appears the most formidable. A Group 2 winners overseas with Group 1 experience, he has proven himself to be a high-class colt.

Of those with North American experience, Cherokee Triangle looks dangerous at a price. He was dominant despite a wide trip in winning the Sept. 22 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs, earning an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

Dirt Mile: Because of the configuration at Monmouth Park, this race is actually being run at a mile and 70 yards, around two turns. This makes it very different from a one-turn mile race, which plays more like a sprint than a route. For that reason I'm inclined to take a stand against Discreet Cat, who was disappointing when third in the Sept. 30 Vosburgh.

I like Diamond Stripes, whose 3 losses in 8 starts all have come in Grade 1 company. He is among the most consistent horses in the field and should get a favorable midpack stalking trip.

Juvenile Fillies: Indian Blessing has been dominant in winning both of her starts, including the Grade 1 Frizette, but will likely get pounded at the betting windows. As an alternative, I will play Grade 2 Matron winner Proud Spell, who, like Indian Blessing, has yet to be defeated.

Although yet to race beyond seven furlongs, this filly has the tactical speed and closing kick to suggest she is up to the challenge.

Juvenile: Pyro, runner-up behind War Pass in a very swift running of the Champagne Stakes, acts like an improving colt who should improve with distance and experience. He was rolling at the end of the one-turn Champagne, and with an extra sixteenth and going two turns in the Juvenile, he seems poised for a strong follow-up performance.

Filly and Mare Turf: Honey Ryder bombed at 2-1 odds in the Beverly D., finishing sixth, but overall has been a consistent, hard-trying mare. She ran within a length of English Channel in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes earlier in the year, a performance very few male horses could muster, much less a mare. Look for her to rebound.

Sprint: Midnight Lute earned a freaky 124 Beyer in winning the Forego over Benny the Bull. Even if he bounces - regressing 10 points or more - he will be a force, but at a short price.

La Traviata is my choice. This 3-year-old filly is unbeaten in three starts, suggesting she has the potential to run with these. And fillies have a good track record in the Sprint.

Mile: After going somewhat off form over the summer months, Kip Deville turned in a peak effort when second in the Woodbine Mile, a race that had as much depth and talent as any other turf race this year. Not only did Kip Deville finish within a length of the brilliant Shakespeare, who has since been retired due to injury, but he managed that effort despite spotting the winner seven pounds.

His performance was easily his best since he took the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile in the spring with a four-wide trip.

Distaff: Front-running Hystericalady was upset in the Oct. 7 Lady's Secret over the Cushion Track at Santa Anita, getting caught by Tough Tiz's Sis in the final stride and finishing second. Over a conventional dirt track in the Distaff, she should raise her game to a higher level. She dominated the Molly Pitcher Handicap over the Monmouth surface this summer, and has consistently earned her best figures on dirt.

Turf: Arc winner Dylan Thomas looks to be in another class than the rest of these, but taking short-priced Europeans is a gamble in races as demanding as Breeders' Cup events. If Sunriver bypasses Sunday's Canadian International, I find him appealing as a potential price play in the Turf. He has run four excellent races since being shifted to the grass.

Classic: The talented and headstrong Lawyer Ron figures to keep Hard Spun honest on the lead, setting the stage for a horse to win from off the pace. The most likely beneficiaries of that scenario would likely be Street Sense and Curlin.

Of the two, I prefer Preakness winner Curlin, who upset Lawyer Ron in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Just when it seems he has leveled out and cannot possibly dazzle any more, he seems to find a way to make jaws drop again.