01/17/2013 4:25PM

Byron King: Avie’s Quality the key to Fair Grounds pick three

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Mark Valeski's long layoff may put him at a fitness disadvantage.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In virtually all sporting events not involving snow or ice, Americans tend to look down their noses at the talents of Canadians.

Horse racing seems no exception. Many U.S. bettors want to see Canadian horses prove themselves in the States before backing these runners confidently at the betting windows.

Perhaps it’s unfamiliarity with the Canadian horses, and simply the difficulties of translating Polytrack form to dirt that creates this tendency. Or maybe it is in knowing that so many Canadian horses who run during the winter in the southern United States are prepping for their eventual return northward when racing resumes in Canada in the spring.

So . . . who wants to bet Avie’s Quality, a 5-2 shot from Canada who is running for the first time on dirt at Fair Grounds on Saturday in the Lecomte?
I do. Or perhaps I should say more accurately, I want to key him in the track’s all-stakes pick three that also includes the Louisiana Handicap and Silverbulletday Stakes.

Reason being, I believe he is clearly the best colt in the Lecomte – a horse more deserving of being 7-5 odds than 5-2. And he can stay, a key when betting a route for inexperienced, newly-turned 3-year-olds.
Avie’s Quality has made all four of his starts in routes and has shown steady improvement with each start, especially over his last two races, when blinkers were added.

In his last two races, racing over the Polytrack at Woodbine, Avie’s Quality whipped a maiden field by five lengths, earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure, and then followed up that dominant score with a 1 1/4-length triumph in the Display Stakes, again on the Poly at Woodbine, Dec. 1.
His Display victory resulted in an even higher Beyer Figure, a 91, easily the highest Beyer posted by any horse in the Lecomte.

His speed figures stand out even more when viewed in comparison to what others in the field have done when routing. Of his six rivals who have raced a mile or longer, none have posted greater figure than 79.
Admittedly, Avie’s Quality ran last two figures on a synthetic surface, not over a traditional dirt track. Regression is a possibility with the surface switch.

But most of the foals out of his dam have shown promise on dirt, and being by Elusive Quality, whose son Smarty Jones won the 2004 Kentucky Derby, Avie’s Quality has the sire-side pedigree to take to dirt.
By my thinking, those betting the pick three will have the choice to either single him, expecting him to take to the dirt, or go deep, knowing that if he goes off form, the race turns into a scramble.
I will take the conservative, lower-cost choice to playing the race by singling Avie’s Quality (#6), and spreading in the two legs preceding the Lecomte.

The stake up first in the pick three sequence is the Louisiana Handicap, a race that features the return of Mark Valeski and goes as the eighth race at 3:55 Central.

Although Mark Valeski (#1) is a good one – winner of the Peter Pan and the runner-up in the both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby last year – he coming off a layoff dating back to May, likely putting him at a fitness disadvantage. So I will include him on my tickets but hope to beat him with larger-priced horses

I prefer Infrattini (#3) and Self Control (#8), two horses coming off fast allowance victories in the fall.

I will go four deep in the Louisiana Handicap, doubling up on Infrattini and Self Control, and using Mark Valeski and Hurricane Ike (#2) on just one on my two Pick Three tickets.

The ninth race, the Silverbulletday, is another wide-open contest, a race in which I will use all three of my top selections: Touch Magic, Gal About Town, and Finding More.

Touch Magic (#4), purchased by Coteau Grove Farms after a runner-up finish in the $500,000 Delta Princess, rated on top, and is appealing at her 6-1 morning-line price. In addition to exiting a quality race, she ran an 81 Beyer, the top last-race figure in the Silverbulletday.

Also of interest is Gal About Town (#10), who won her first two starts before runner-up finishes in the Pocahontas and Golden Rod; and Finding More (#7), a stakes-winning filly who regularly outruns her odds.

The Tickets
Pick threes at Fair Grounds can be played in 50-cent denominations. I’ll play two tickets, singling Avie’s Quality in the Lecomte. The tickets are listed below with the horses in numerical order.
◗ 50-cent Pick Three – 1,2,3,8 with 4,7,10 with 6. Ticket cost $6.
◗ 50-cent Pick Three – 3,8 with 4,7,10 with 6. Ticket cost $3.