08/17/2005 11:00PM

Deputy G singled out in all-stakes pick four

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Bill Straus
Josh's Madelyn has not won this year but is a live longshot at her home track of Ellis Park.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saturday's all-stakes pick four at Ellis Park features contests with clear favorites, but not necessarily clear standouts. The races are more competitive than they seem at first glance.

The stakes action, and the pick-four wager, begins on race 7 with the Anna M. Fischer Debutante, a seven-furlong contest for 2-year-olds fillies. Swept Gold, third in the Grade 3 Debutante Stakes at Churchill on July 9, is a deserving favorite.

She has much to offer: a win and a stakes placing in two starts, high-percentage connections, and a pedigree and running style that suggest she should excel with a stretch-out from shorter sprints to running seven-eighths of a mile. What she does not offer is a price. Her virtues are all too apparent.

My choice as a price alternative is Southern Sass. A maiden facing winners, she may be a bit overlooked.

Putting aside that she is a maiden, she fits. She earned a competitive Beyer Speed Figure of 74 finishing second in a five-furlong race at Ellis Park on Aug. 7, closing well through the stretch to fall three-quarters of a length behind favored Get an Eye Full.

She, like Swept Gold, should enjoy the opportunity to race a longer sprint distance. I also like her pedigree - a handicapping factor that takes on importance in races for juveniles. She is a daughter of Distorted Humor, who has sired such top runners as Funny Cide and Flower Alley.

I'll use both Southern Sass (No. 5) and Swept Gold (6) in my pick-four combinations.

Deputy G, winner of the Grade 3 Bashford Manor, heads the next leg, The James C. Ellis Juvenile. Two for two in his short career, he is difficult to criticize after having defeated a better group last month at Churchill Downs. His Beyer Figures are weak, but that is also true of the opposition.

Class and seasoning should carry him to victory. I'll single Deputy G (2).

Shaconage, exiting graded company to race in the Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf, should find a class drop to her liking. She has been in position to win her last three races, but failed to power to victory when called upon by her rider.

Trainer Mitch Shirota adds blinkers, equipment Shaconage wore earlier in her career. Racing over a course over which she has already won, she rates the edge at a short price. I'll use Shaconage (5) in the pick four with Victoire Bataille (6), a front-running filly who ran a series of good races in rich allowances at Churchill during its spring meet.

The wager closes with the Grade 3 Gardenia, a race in which Grade 1 winner Dream of Summer should be favored to win. Moved from 1 1/8 miles to a mile for this year's running, the race features more speed than past Gardenia Handicaps.

This does not spell doom for the front-runners. Several have shown the ability to keep running through demanding fractions, but a quick pace would give some of the late-runners a chance. That includes playable longshot Josh's Madelyn (1), winner of the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland last fall.

Winless in six starts this year, she could turn things around at Ellis Park, her home track. Last summer, one start before taking the Raven Run, she won an overnight handicap at Ellis Par by running seven furlongs in track record time of 1:21.37. She has not raced over the surface this year, but has trained regularly at Ellis. Every one of her opponents has trained elsewhere.

She also benefits from drawing post 1. Mile races at Ellis start out of a chute that essentially begins midway around the clubhouse turn. This allows inside runners to save ground early and grab favorable running positions.

The numbers back this up. Since 2000, post 1 has won at a 17-percent clip in mile races over the Ellis main track, the highest of any post.

Halory Leigh (8), Dream of Summer (6), and Miss Fortunate (5) - all returning from significant layoffs - loom as the class and will be on my pick four.

My $1 ticket - 5,6 with 2 with 5,6 with 1,8,6,5 - costs $16.