02/10/2005 12:00AM

Buzzards Bay overlay in Risen Star


LOUISVILLE - There are at least a couple reasons why the betting public will view Buzzards Bay with skepticism in Saturday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. His last race, a narrow win, took place against two opponents in a three-horse field at Golden Gate, and it also came over a drying-out track rated good.

That he won in a short field on an off track, which would prompt some to question the legitimacy of his victory, are the very reasons that I like him.

Had he won his last race, the Golden Gate Derby, against a deep cast of high-profile runners and over a fast surface, bettors would be more willing to accept the 97 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in that race. Instead, many will likely consider him to be a phony.

As of late Thursday afternoon, Buzzards Bay was the sixth choice of Daily Racing Form readers that had voted online for whom they think will win the Risen Star. He had gotten only 7 percent of the vote.

Still, he has a shot to win. Already a dual winner around two turns, he has run the fastest of anyone in the field. His 97 Beyer for winning the Golden Gate Derby is at least 5 points higher than any of his opponents' top number.

He also displayed heart in the Golden Gate Derby when pitted in a long stretch duel, albeit against Sharp Writer, a 3-year-old that had taken seven starts to win his maiden.

Although he and Sharp Writer took huge leaps forward in their figures, the 97 Beyer they earned seems legit. Third-place Dover Dere, the favorite, ran his usual Beyer in the low 80's, and he suffered the biggest losing margin of his career, a nine-length defeat.

It is not as if Buzzards Bay did not have the potential to run fast. His current owner, Fog City Stable, reportedly paid $180,000 for him after a maiden victory at Calder last fall. That may not be a princely sum for a son of Storm Cat, but for a son of Marco Bay whose only win had come at Calder, that price should raise eyebrows.

Leading up to his race at Golden Gate, Buzzards Bay had also trained quickly, breezing five furlongs in 57.60 seconds at Santa Anita. He has trained similarly for this race, with three quick works at Santa Anita, including another bullet.

Trainer Jeff Mullins - who is winning at a 38 percent rate with horses that won their previous start - now ships him to Fair Grounds, where the local contingent of 3-year-olds, led by Storm Surge, took longer than 1:39 to run a mile in the Lecomte.

Buzzards Bay looms a likely overlay, and is the choice over Iced Out and Harlington. He has the versatility to set or stalk the pace, the speed to run quickly, and the heart to win in a dogfight.

Pick four looks playable

Saturday's card at Fair Grounds includes three other stakes and a $250,000 guaranteed pool for an all-stakes pick four. The first guaranteed pick four of the meet, which covered races run on Jan. 15, handled over $273,000 and resulted in a payoff of $5,132.20. Several longshot winners enlarged the payoff.

Saturday's pick four seems unlikely to return that much, but with competitive races on tap, the returns are still potentially rewarding. Here's a look at the races.

Provided the Taylor's Special stays on the grass, the 5 1/2-furlong race appears pretty wide open. My top choice, Chosen Chief, should be a fair price, even after his runner-up finish in a fast Fair Grounds turf dash. He ran second Dec. 16, beaten a neck, in a 5 1/2-furlong race timed in 1:03.73, the second-fastest time of 25 turf sprints run at the meet. I'll play him to win and use him with Worldwind Romance and Mighty Beau in the pick four. If the race comes off the grass, Gold Storm would become a single for me.

The graded-stakes-placed Summerly appears to be the goods in next leg, the Silverbulletday. Drawn outside most of the other speed, she should get a favorable trip. A single.

Pollard's Vision, who earned over $1 million last year as a 3-year-old, is the class of the next race, the Mineshaft. And the way trainer Todd Pletcher's comebackers have been winning at Gulfstream, Pollard's Vision should provide confidence for those wondering if he is cranked for his 2004 debut. The locally based Gigawatt and Alumni Hall also have a chance to lesser degrees.

The Risen Star closes out the pick four. Besides Buzzards Bay, I'll use Harlington and Iced Out in my pick fours.

Provided the Taylor's Special remains on turf, I'll play a $1 pick four (6, 8, 9 with 8 with 1, 3, 7 with 5, 7, 10), costing $27, and a smaller ticket singling Pollard's Vision (6, 8, 9 with 8 with 7 with 5, 7, 10), which costs $9.