03/20/2003 1:00AM

Cyber Secret set for peak effort


NEW YORK - At this time of year, hardly a Saturday can go by without a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, and this week is no exception. The richest race on the national stakes calendar Saturday is the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park. In years past, the Lane's End was known as the Turfway Spiral, the Jim Beam, and even the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes. But, it remains a serviceable Derby prep for those who don't mind six weeks between it and the big day. It also heads a program that offers four other stakes, including the $100,000 Rushaway, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds who may not be quite advanced enough to contend in the Lane's End.

The Lane's End isn't the only Derby prep on Saturday. There is also the $125,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, the local stepping-stone to next month's Arkansas Derby.

Saturday's stakes action isn't only about Derby preps, however. Among other noteworthy stakes to be run are the $200,000 Pan American Handicap on the turf at Gulfstream, the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap on the turf at Santa Anita, and the $100,000 Cicada Stakes on Aqueduct's main track.

Here are three stakes that caught my eye:


Roar Emotion is a talented filly who earned higher Beyer Speed Figures at 2 than anyone else in this field has ever earned, even this year, when good 3-year-olds are supposed to run progressively faster because of physical development. But, Roar Emotion returns here from a near three-month layoff, and is going to have to be used early from her inside post. Since she will be a short price, I will try and beat her.

Cyber Secret is the pick. She cuts back in distance from a pair of two-turn races on the inner track, one of them a stakes win, and horses who make such cutbacks to this seven-furlong distance have a foundation that often manifests itself in a positive way in the final furlong. Cyber Secret will be a pace factor from the outset in this race, and should be ready for a peak performance in her third start back off a layoff.


Like the Cicada, this race is topped by a talented individual, Great Notion. He parlayed an uncontested lead into a runaway victory in the Southwest Stakes over the track early this month. Instead of being the generous 3-1 he was in the Southwest, however, Great Notion will be closer to 3-5 Saturday. With questions still remaining about his ability to go long, especially when he isn't uncontested on the early lead, I will attempt to beat Great Notion with Comic Truth.

It shouldn't be forgotten that Comic Truth was the 3-2 favorite over Great Notion in the Southwest, and since he was beaten a little more than 10 lengths after making a middle move, his price will be considerably bigger this time. I suspect Comic Truth was a short horse that day and will benefit greatly from the outing, and if he approaches his best form, he will be formidable. That is because Comic Truth twice came close to triple-digit Beyer territory last fall in stakes at Delta Downs, and should be able to run faster than that now that he is a few months older.

Pan American

I can't break away from the "beat the favorite" theme now, even though Man From Wicklow, who will be the chalk in this spot, will be the toughest favorite of all to tip over Saturday. In winning the McKnight and Gulfstream Breeders' Cup handicaps in his last two starts, Man From Wicklow beat everyone in this field except the bottom feeders and the main track only entrant.

Macaw is one of those Man From Wicklow recently defeated, but he is still my selection. Macaw finished ninth in the McKnight, yet was beaten only four lengths. In his last start, Macaw took a big step forward finishing second in the Mac Diarmida Handicap. Not only was that Macaw's best race in this country since coming over from England last year, suggesting that he may now be on his way, but he also finished strongly, posting a very good come-home time.