02/27/2002 12:00AM

In this case, 2-1 odds were a bargain

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PHILADELPHIA - Is 2-1 ever a really good thing? In special circumstances, the answer is an unqualified yes.

They ran the Las Flores Handicap last Saturday at Santa Anita with two fillies and two mares. That is four horses for the arithmetically challenged.

In fact, there were two horses with a chance. Warren's Whistle and Enchanted Woods were going to pick up checks because there were checks to pick up. Neither was going to win.

So the race came down to Above Perfection and Kalookan Queen. The bettors chose Kalookan Queen. She was 2-5. Above Perfection was 2-1.

There obviously was no reason to bet Kalookan Queen to win. Is 2-5 ever a good thing? In all circumstances, the answer is an unqualified no.

Thus, there was really just one question to answer. If they ran this race 10 times, how many times would Above Perfection win?

If your answer was anywhere close to five, you had to bet. It's not often you get 2-1 on what you perceive to be a 50-50 proposition.

In her three most recent races, Kalookan Queen had earned Beyers of 103, 103, 107. She had won the previous pair, including the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Jan. 26. In 18 career starts, she had eight wins and six seconds.

She was always close to the lead, but how fast was she really? And more importantly was she fast enough to run with Above Perfection? My conclusion was that she was not.

In her two recent races, Above Perfection had earned Beyers of 91 and 95. She had finished fifth in the Grade 1 La Brea on Dec. 29, her first race after a long layoff. Then, she had won a small stakes at Golden Gate.

On recent form, Kalookan Queen was clearly stronger. But was she faster?

Kalookan Queen had a best Beyer of 112, but that was earned in October 1999. Her recent form suggested she would get a Beyer of around 105.

Could a loose-on-the-lead Above Perfection do better? Well, she had gotten a 107 in a May 2001 allowance without the lead. And I kept coming to back to July 4 when Above Perfection was fast enough to outrun Xtra Heat early and good enough to lose by just a neck to the 3-year-old filly champion in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes.

That day, Above Perfection got a 112 Beyer. So, she could do the number that would win the race.

I singled Above Perfection in the La Brea when Santa Anita had a huge pick six carryover. She got caught in a wild speed duel and had no real chance to win, especially at seven furlongs. She tired very late.

The Las Flores was at six furlongs. I thought Above Perfection was going to get a clear lead. I thought she was going to run one of her big Beyers. I thought she had a 50-50 chance to win. I don't really like 2-1, but this looked like a time to like it.

My reason for betting was not exactly correct. The result was fine.

Kalookan Queen broke a little to the outside. Above Perfection made the lead, but barely. The pair hooked up in a match race. They were five lengths clear of the field after a quarter in 21.40 seconds and seven lengths clear after a half in 43.40. As they hit the eighth pole in 55.60, Above Perfection began to edge away. At the wire, the margin was one length.

The Beyer was 111. There was no celebration. Like most coaches will tell you after they have been at it for a while, winning is never as good as losing is bad. Winning is just a relief. In this case, relief at 2-1.