11/16/2006 1:00AM

In this case, bet against lone speed


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The advantage of being the lone speed horse is obvious. With the benefit of an easy lead, a front-runner can relax, slow the fractions, and have the energy to fend off late bids from opponents.

Unfortunately, lone speed is obvious to bettors. There is little betting value in taking such a clear stick-out.

I expect Quite a Bride will start as the favorite in Saturday's Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs for precisely that reason. Seemingly the controlling speed of the 1 1/16-mile turf race, she will have no shortage of mutuel support.

She should have things her way early, or so it seems on paper. But the unexpected sometimes happens in racing. A horse expected to set the pace breaks slowly, or a horse that typically stalks the pace ends up being sent to the lead.

On turf, a surface that does not carry speed as well dirt, I will take my chances and try to beat likely favorite Quite a Bride, knowing quite well that she will be tough to pass in the stretch. My hope is someone will go with her, or she will be headstrong and not settle for jockey Cornelio Velasquez. That could set the stage for a nice-priced winner.

My choice as a price alternative is Precious Kitten, a half-sister to Kitten's Joy who won the Martha Washington Stakes at Laurel Park this fall. Although second recently behind Meribel, another Mrs. Revere starter, that race came in the Valley View Stakes at Keeneland, a race that was transferred from turf to Polytrack due to inclement weather.

Her loss to Meribel confirmed that rival is a better Polytrack horse, not necessarily a better turf horse.

Working in favor of Precious Kitten is her experience over the local course. Of the 11 horses in the Mrs. Revere, only she and May Night have run over the Churchill turf course. Precious Kitten has performed well locally, running third behind Lady of Venice in the Grade 3 Regret in June and second to Take the Ribbon in the Heavenly Cause Stakes in July.

Precious Kitten, the probable third choice behind Quite a Bride and Meribel in the Mrs. Revere, looks like an overlay at odds of around 4-1 or 5-1.

Pick three play at Churchill

The Mrs. Revere is the second leg of a late pick three at Churchill Downs, providing bettors with an opportunity to shoot for a rewarding play in the exotics. Here's my pick three strategy, beginning with the eighth race.

* Race 8: Casino Evil (No. 5), coming off a troubled trip when third in the Oklahoma Derby, rates as the choice in this second-level allowance, with Saint Anddan (No. 10) also being included on my pick three tickets.

A game winner of the Round Table Stakes over the summer, Casino Evil ran a pair of powerful races in allowances at Churchill in the spring - efforts that, if repeated, would make him tough to beat in this allowance. Saint Anddan is my backup play, coming off a fast allowance win at Belmont for trainer Bobby Frankel.

* Race 9, the Mrs. Revere: With Precious Kitten (No. 8) drawing my support in the win pool, I will hedge a bit and spread three deep in this race, tossing the front-running Quite a Bride (No. 11) and the consistently fast Meribel (No. 1) on my tickets.

* Race 10: After going two deep in the first two legs of the pick three, I plan to take a strong stand in the nightcap, using only Chief Assembly (No. 8). On the board in all four of his sprint starts, he comes off deceptively good a third-place finish at Churchill against similar maiden $50,000 claimers on Nov. 3.

Breaking sharply from the rail, he engaged in a speed duel and was left weakened in the stretch of that seven-furlong race. Although he faded to lose by 3 1/2 lengths, his performance was strong compared with that of the other speed horse, Rajon, who faded to last.

Shortened to six furlongs, Chief Assembly should run an improved race and graduate from the maiden ranks.

Using the horses outlined above, playing a $2 pick three ticket of 5, 10 with 8, 11, 1 with 8 costs $12.