10/18/2006 11:00PM

Capote's Crown value at 4-1


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Horseplayers are accustomed to seeing Grade 1 class-droppers win races. So, too, have they seen races dominated by horses owning the top Beyer Speed Figure. The problem is that they are all too used to seeing those horses win at short prices.

Yet occasionally some slip past the public, and hopefully one such occasion will be on Saturday when Capote's Crown competes in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland.

Capote's Crown, 4-1 on the morning line, combines many of the elements that horseplayers want to see in a horse: class and lofty speed figures. Winner of the Queen of Song Stakes at Belmont June 9 with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure, she has since run seventh in the Grade 1 Prioress and a close fourth in her last race, the Grade 1 Test Aug. 5.

She also has another big thing in her favor: a two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer in Todd Pletcher, who just this past week set the record for most graded stakes wins by a trainer in a year.

So why isn't she a shorter price on the line? My guess would be her relatively modest recent Beyers of 81 and 84, earned in the Test and Prioress, respectively, and the fact that she has not finished better than fourth in three starts outside Belmont Park.

Although it would be nice to see Capote's Crown with higher recent figures, I am still excited about her chances of winning the 14-horse Raven Run.

For starters, she has experience in a large field such as this one. When fourth in the Test - which is typically the best sprint race of the year for 3-year-old fillies - she showed the ability to fight her way through traffic in losing by only three lengths. She also finished in front of some nice fillies, such as Livermore Valley, Win McCool, Hello Liberty, and Diplomat Lady - just to name a few.

As for her finishing off the board in three races outside Belmont, I am not overly concerned about that. She was only a nose out of third place in the Test at Saratoga, and that is a Grade 1.

Capote's Crown is far from a standout - only a value play if she starts at her 4-1 morning line price or higher. She shows a limited work tab since being transferred from Kiaran McLaughlin to Pletcher after her last race.

My second choice is two-time stakes winner My Lucky Free, who impressed me with the acceleration she showed in winning three straight starts at Monmouth this summer. A good gate horse, she regularly places herself in a contending position, and then powers away from her opponents leaving the turn and into the stretch.

Although unraced on Polytrack, she has the turn of foot that would figure to play well here. What she doesn't have, however, is any experience running as far as seven furlongs, the distance of the Raven Run.

The late-running Windy, who has trained over synthetic surfaces at Hollywood Park and Keeneland, is another who should like the track. Her style of running between four to six lengths off the pace suits the track profile, which has favored closers.

Wildcat Bettie B loves the distance

Three-year-old filly sprinters are also on display Saturday at Laurel Park in the Grade 3 Safely Kept Stakes. Most of the runners in the field seem well-suited to the six-furlong distance.

That is the case with Wildcat Bettie B, my selection. A Meadowlake filly, she is 6 for 7 in races going six furlongs or shorter. In contrast, she ran 11th in the one-mile Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn in February and a distant third in the seven-furlong Beaumont at Keeneland in April.

Running six furlongs in July, she won the Grade 1 Prioress, beating Wild Gams and Livermore Valley, both of whom are back in the Safely Kept. She didn't beat them by much, though, edging Wild Gams by a neck and defeating Livermore Valley by 2 3/4 lengths.

With several speedy fillies in the lineup, Wildcat Bettie B should be able to work out a favorable stalking trip.

Livermore Valley and G City Gal, the one-two finishers in the Sept. 24 Mongo Queen Stakes at Monmouth, look like her main adversaries. Livermore Valley, who rolled to a 2 3/4-length victory in that race, consistently posts Beyers in the low to mid-90's and should get a good stalking trip. And G City Gal is eligible to improve off a race in which she pressured a hot pace.

Footage-traveled-per-race stats now online

As if horseplayers did not have enough excuses to give their horses when they lose, now they have another: knowing the precise distance their horse ran at Keeneland, thanks to the new Trakus technology there.

In checking the distance the horses ran in the First Lady Stakes last Saturday - which can be accessed at www.keeneland.com/liveracing/ trakus.asp - I noticed that Karen's Caper ran 14 feet farther than Gorella did in losing by half a head to that rival. Bummer. That only makes a tough beat for me on Karen's Caper even tougher.

It is important to keep in mind that these ground-loss numbers cannot measure heart - something that Gorella showed more of than Karen's Caper in the First Lady. From that standpoint, the only equipment that matters is the photo-finish camera.