12/17/2006 1:00AM

Devilment alone brings early lick


NEW YORK - Colts with aspirations to be players on the 2007 Kentucky Derby trail take center stage Saturday at Hollywood Park in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. Meanwhile, Saturday is Grand Slam II Day at Calder Race Course, where four stakes events will be decided, the most notable being a pair of Grade 2, $200,000 marathon handicaps on the turf, the W. L. McKnight, and the La Prevoyante.

Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap

This is an intriguing race from a wagering standpoint. Off of his overall strong turf form, Purim will take plenty of money, although he hasn't raced since early June. Rathor will attract plenty of action, too, off of his New York and Southern California lines and the drop from Grade 1 and 2 company. But he hasn't been out since July, and this will mark his first attempt on turf in this country. And if it's turf at Fair Grounds, you know Mystery Giver, 8, will get plenty of respect. Mystery Giver's win at Hawthorne two months ago says he still has something left in the tank.

What might get lost here, however, is the fact that there is hardly any speed in this race. Devilment can capitalize on the lack of pace, and that's why I like him.

Devilment made his first start on turf late last month and it was a solid score at the distance over the course after being with the pace from the start. The 97 Beyer Speed Figure he earned doesn't quite match the kind of figures Mystery Giver and Purim can run, but layoffs and age might preclude them from generating a top Beyer on Saturday. Meanwhile, Devilment can take another step forward. His win last time out was only his third start back off a long absence.

Hollywood Futurity

I liked Principle Secret in last month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and I don't know exactly what to say about his "performance" in it. Okay, the rail was definitely the place to be at Churchill Downs that day, and when Principle Secret dueled for the early lead with Stormello, who is also back in this race, he did so from the outside. But that isn't enough of an excuse for Principle Secret stopping to a walk and being eased. But I'm willing to forgive one uncharacteristically poor effort, and I'm giving Principle Secret another shot.

Principle Secret can win if he runs back to his prior two starts. He was a decisive winner of the Best Pal, soundly beating both Great Hunter, who later won the Breeders' Futurity and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Stormello. Principle Secret was perhaps even more impressive in the Norfolk Breeders' Cup, though he was nailed by Stormello. He disputed a very fast pace while Stormello enjoyed a perfect stalking trip, and while Stormello ran well to just get up, Principle Secret had the tougher trip.

Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap

I know what you're thinking: "Mister Fotis is in this race. He's going to pick Mister Fotis. Again. Watchmaker is so predictable."

Guilty as charged. It's true, I've picked Mister Fotis in this space more than once, including when he was sixth last time out in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap. What can I say? I like him again. He ran the kind of race in the Dudley - slow early, gaining fast late - that preceded his win in this race last year and in the Richter Scale Breeders' Cup early this year. And notably, both of those wins came when he stretched out from six to seven furlongs, which he is doing Saturday. Mister Fotis should be set for a prime effort third start off a layoff, and he should be a decent price. Nightmare Affair will take money off thirds to Thor's Echo in the BC Sprint and DeFrancis Dash. But those races were at six furlongs, and Nightmare Affair doesn't seem quite as effective going seven furlongs.