09/11/2003 12:00AM

Cajun Beat set to move forward


NEW YORK - Almost every significant stakes race this time of year has Breeders' Cup implications, and Saturday's schedule is no exception.

Saturday is Kentucky Cup Day at Turfway Park, with the main event, the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, being a serviceable prep to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Congaree will be a heavy favorite. The $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile and $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies are both two-turn events clearly intended to move youngsters forward to the two Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-olds. The $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint has been a successful springboard to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and there is even an opportunity for fillies and mares in the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Speaking of stakes for females, they are the main attractions Saturday at both Belmont Park and Arlington Park.

At Belmont, the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap, an unmistakable signpost on the way to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, is the most prestigious of four stakes on the program. The others are the $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, which is scheduled for turf but is under threat from a wet weather forecast, the $150,000 Jerome Handicap, and the $100,000 Floral Park Handicap.

Meanwhile, at Arlington, 3-year-old turf fillies, some of whom may harbor dreams of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, contest the $175,000 Pucker Up Stakes.

Here are the three stakes I found interesting from a betting standpoint:

Kentucky Cup Sprint

Cajun Beat is a strong play here off a big effort last time out when second in the Carry Back Stakes on Calder's Summit of Speed program.

Even only on paper, Cajun Beat's second in the Carry Back would be enough to make him a prime contender. He was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by Valid Video, who showed how good he is when he came back to win the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga. That was Cajun Beat's second straight strong effort since switching barns, and he matched his career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 104, which is certainly competitive in this field.

But, Cajun Beat ran even better than it shows on paper. He was in traffic between horses for most of the run down the backstretch while Valid Video enjoyed a clear outside run. Then, Cajun Beat had to angle out for racing room into the stretch. With it all, he fought gamely to the finish.

Cajun Beat was 26-1 in the Carry Back. His odds won't be that high Saturday, but he should still be a decent price.

Pucker Up

Trainer Michael Dickinson doesn't ship to Chicago that often, but when he does, he's dangerous. Dickinson is very dangerous in this race with Sarie Marais, who is my pick.

Sarie Marais turned in a strong performance when second in a small stakes at Monmouth Park in her recent U.S. debut. She trailed early behind a very slow pace, and yet she still unleashed a powerful closing kick to be a narrowly beaten second. How strong was her late kick? Sarie Marais completed her final five-sixteenths of a mile in approximately 28.60 seconds, which is really motoring, and strongly indicative that she will relish the added sixteenth of a mile this race affords.

Jerome Handicap

Despite the fact that he is moving up in class from a victory in an entry-level allowance race to a Grade 2 stakes, I like Roses in May in this spot. Roses in May's allowance win, which came at Saratoga, was most impressive. He won by more than 10 lengths, and he ran fast enough to earn a Beyer Figure of 104, which equals the best of anyone else in this field. On top of it all, Roses in May accomplished this while being well in hand.

Roses in May is also cutting back to a one-turn mile off three consecutive two-turn starts. He has the early speed to withstand such a cut back in distance, and he also now has the foundation to still be strong in the late stages.