09/15/2004 11:00PM

At decent price, mare is high-priced spread


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saturday's Kentucky Cup races at Turfway Park offer a racing smorgasbord, with five six-figure stakes among its 10 races. All I want, though, is Mayo on the Side.

Mayo on the Side is the play of the day in the Grade 3, $175,000 Turfway Park Breeders' Cup. Matched against the one-two finishers from the Gardenia Stakes, Angela's Love and Miss Fortunate, and Molly Pitcher winner La Reason, she could start as high as 3-1.

She is an attractive wager at that price for several reasons, most notably class. Earlier this year she outran Azeri in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Granted, the race may seem a bit phony when looking back on it. The time was slow by Grade 1 standards - she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 - and she edged Azeri when that rival had a troubled trip at seven furlongs, a distance shorter than what she prefers. Mayo on the Side also won this Grade 1 in a four-horse field.

Still, Saturday's race is not a Grade 1. It is a Grade 3, and Mayo on the Side is of that quality.

I'm hopeful her suspect recent form, which includes three recent losses, will get some horseplayers jumping off her bandwagon.

Although it is not apparent by quickly glancing at her past performances, she had excuses for those defeats. In two of those losses, she was shipped out of Kentucky - where she performs best - and in another loss, a close runner-up finish behind Miss Fortunate at Ellis Park in the HBPA Handicap, a wide trip may have cost her a victory.

Just how much better is Mayo on the Side in Kentucky, compared to when she races outside the state? Consider her Beyer Speed Figures. Six times she has raced in Kentucky since this time last year. Starting with her most recent Kentucky race over that stretch, she earned Beyer Figures of 97, 99, 99, 96, 74, and 101 - for an average of 94. By comparison, she received Beyers of 88, 81, 88, 85, and 100 - an average of 88 - for her five most recent races outside the state.

Her earnings and record similarly mirror how much more effective she has been in Kentucky. Of those six Kentucky races, three resulted in wins, two in runner-up finishes, and one in a rear-half finish. Those six races generated $364,551 in earnings, an average of $60,758 per race. Her five races outside the state resulted in two thirds and three fourths with earnings of $60,000, or an average of $12,000 per race.

Perhaps her success in the Bluegrass can be attributed to training at Skylight Training Center, just outside Louisville in Oldham County. There she can relax in an off-racetrack environment, a key for many fillies, particularly those who are high-energy, nervous types.

Certainly training at Skylight helps her price. Horses based at Skylight tend to come into their races with sketchy workout patterns - but these horses are as fit and as well prepared as horses recording regularly published drills at Churchill Downs.

Mayo on the Side needs to run back to her best races to win. Back in Kentucky, all indications are that she will.

Value in Punch Appeal

Some of the other stakes could prove to have rewarding betting opportunities, beginning with the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, where the Bernie-Flint trained Im a Dixie Girl is a bounce candidate after running a Beyer Figure of 90 winning the Bassinet. Punch Appeal is my price alternative. Dropping in class from a fifth-place finish in the Spinaway, she should exhibit marked improvement for connections known for their skill with 2-year-olds.

The 2-year-old males are up next in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile. There, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Storied Cat looms the one to beat. A maiden winner at Saratoga in August, he has twice run Beyer Figures of 80 or higher. None of his opponents has run that quickly. Of those who spent the summer in Kentucky, Sequoia Grove has the best shot.

The Kentucky Cup Classic is likely to be won by heavily favored Roses in May, who gamely won the Whitney after pressing a furious pace. If he can avoid regression off such a taxing effort, he should win again.

Lastly, the Kentucky Cup Sprint ends the Turfway stakes. Heckle, who has flashed talent at times during an often interrupted racing career, is favorably drawn on the outside in a speed-laden field and may have a fitness edge over the comebacking Cuvee.