10/01/2008 11:00PM

Clean break is all Hellvelyn needs


NEW YORK - With the big event now only three weeks away, the last round of major Breeders' Cup preps takes place this weekend. On Saturday, the focus will be on Woodbine, Keeneland, and Belmont Park. Nine Breeders' Cup Win and You're in races will be decided at the three tracks.

All four of the stakes on Woodbine's card - the Canadian International, the E.P. Taylor, the Nearctic, and the Summer Stakes - are Win and You're In events. The Shadwell Turf Mile, the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes are Win and You're In races on a Keeneland card that also includes the Phoenix and Woodford stakes. The Frizette and Champagne stakes are the Win and You're In races at Belmont on a card that also includes the Jamaica Handicap.

Other stakes of interest Saturday include the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, which attracted Pyro, and the Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap at Oak Tree.

Nearctic Stakes

Hellvelyn got a lot of support at the windows when he made his U.S. debut closing day at Saratoga. And given the way he performed in an unlucky defeat, it was easy to see why he was so well backed. Obviously, Hellvelyn can really run, and he will be hard to deny in this spot with just an even shake in the racing luck department.

Hellvelyn, a Group 2 winner and Group 1 placed as a 2-year-old in Europe two years ago, was making his first start in a year in Saratoga's Quick Call Stakes. But the layoff wouldn't have meant anything if he had been allowed a clean getaway. Instead, Hellvelyn was bumped coming out of the gate, causing him to stumble and putting him about three lengths behind the next-to-last horse in the blink of an eye. Much to his credit, Hellvelyn worked his way into contention on the far turn, and fought on courageously through the stretch to be beaten just two noses in a blanket finish. Hellvelyn has every right to improve second start back off a long layoff. If he does, and if he doesn't get clobbered at the start again, everyone else in here will be running for second money.

If the morning line in this race is anywhere close to being right (one can always hope), then True to Tradition should be used in exotic wagers. True to Tradition just drilled Heros Reward when he ran a hole in the wind winning the Turf Monster Handicap at Philadelphia Park, and was unlucky when narrowly beaten by Heros Reward in a turf sprint stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico. Yet, Heros Reward is the 5-2 favorite and True to Tradition is pegged at 10-1, just beyond Hellvelyn at 8-1. Where's fixed-odds betting when you need it?

Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes

Sugar Swirl has been the favorite in her last seven starts, and Indyanne has been odds-on in all five of her career starts. Clearly, the public loves betting on these two, and I'm hoping the love affair continues Saturday because I'm against both of them in this race. Sugar Swirl was second in this race last year to Wild Gams, who is back again this year, and Sugar Swirl's recent Beyer Figures are a decided cut below what others in this race have been getting lately. As for Indyanne, I concede that she broke poorly when she lost for the first time in Saratoga's Victory Ride Stakes last time out. But if Indyanne was as good as she was cracked up to be, she would have won the Victory Ride despite her slow start. After all, she was 2-5 in that race.

I like Wild Gams to defend her title in this race. Wild Gams is repeating the pattern that worked for her in this event last year, coming into this after competing in the Presque Isle Downs Masters. The only difference is, last year she finished second at Presque Isle and this year she won there, which can be taken as evidence that Wild Gams is even better now than she was when she won this event a year ago. Moreover, there is ample speed in this race to keep Indyanne occupied early, which sets up this race for Wild Gams's good late kick.

Phoenix Stakes

With on-the-board finishes in the Grade 1 De Francis Dash, the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes in his last three starts, and four straight triple-digit Beyer Figures before that, Talent Search will likely be the favorite here despite having not raced in more than 10 months. I guess it's possible that Talent Search might be so much the best here that his long period of inactivity won't matter. But I can't take a horse as the chalk off such a long absence, especially when that horse will also be making his first start on a synthetic racing surface.

I'm taking a flyer here with Carnacks Choice. Carnacks Choice's recent form is not pretty. The best Beyer he earned in his last four starts was an 80, and that came in an 11 1/4-length defeat. But those were races on dirt and turf, and Carnacks Choice seems to be one of the new breed of horses who is a true synthetic track specialist. His last attempt on a synthetic track came at Keeneland five starts back when he beat the very capable Indian Chant, subsequent winner of the Artistides Stakes, and who would be one of the favorites in this race. That win was no fluke. The first and only other time Carnacks Choice ran on Keeneland's Polytrack, he beat 10 opponents to win the Lafayette Stakes.