07/07/2002 11:00PM

Dissecting hefty load of holiday fare


NEW YORK - Some comments on a few selected races run over a busy holiday weekend:

Tom Fool Handicap

Speed figure makers know that, on occasion, races are run either so slow or so fast they must be treated differently from other races at the distance, even ones run immediately before or after the race in question.

This happens because of weird timing, or wind, or even track maintenance. Savvy New York horseplayers are particularly attuned to this. Ever notice how the sandy surface of Belmont Park suddenly becomes much faster after it has been heavily- watered before a big stakes race?

That said, I think Left Bank's track record performance of seven furlongs in 1:20.17 in last Thursday's Tom Fool at Belmont was a legitimately fast race. It looked like Affirmed Success, winner of the Carter two starts back, ran his race. He did finish nearly six lengths ahead of the well-regarded Summer Note at the wire. But at the finish, Affirmed Success was a little more than six lengths behind Left Bank. The obvious conclusion is that Left Bank ran out of his mind, and his performance was, in this instance, accurately reflected by the teletimer.

Suburban Handicap

There are few matters in horse racing more subjective than track bias. Identifying a real track bias is a lot like identifying qualified candidates for baseball's Hall of Fame: If you have to debate the issue, then you probably don't have a real track bias, or a true Hall of Famer.

A lot of people thought E Dubai's front-running victory in Saturday's Suburban Handicap at Belmont was a product of a speed-favoring track. I don't think that's fair to E Dubai. Sure, E Dubai was the fourth straight front-running winner on dirt that day, but one of those other front-runners was a 3-5 shot, another was an undefeated filly (Carson Hollow in the Prioress), and the first two winners on dirt Saturday came from off the pace.

Perhaps some people assumed that the quick times thrown up on dirt made for a speed track, but the two trends are mutually exclusive. I've seen tracks with a foot of sand on them where closers couldn't dent the front-runners, and I've seen frozen tracks where speed couldn't hold on even with a head start.

E Dubai's victory was due entirely to the complete lack of other speed in the Suburban. When a horse as good as E Dubai, winner of the Dwyer and runner-up in the Travers and Super Derby, gets away with fractions of 24.10 seconds and 48.72, that's a monumental advantage.

Even with that huge edge, E Dubai still ran big. His fastest quarter in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban was the final quarter. He came home in 23.84, which is strong.

Nevertheless, the horse I would want to have coming out of the Suburban is Lido Palace. He was beaten less than a length while finishing second off a five-month layoff. It took him a little while to get going last year, so he should be formidable in the months ahead.

American Oaks

It's unsatisfying when a $500,000 race like Saturday's American Oaks at Hollywood Park is decided in the stewards' stand, but the best horse was placed first.

Dublino got to the wire first, ahead of Megahertz, because she got a perfect ride from Kent Desormeaux. Perfect, that is, except for when Dublino drifted out into Megahertz in the stretch, which Desormeaux may not have been able to control. There was also a possible whip infraction. Alex Solis, the rider of Megahertz, claimed Desormeaux struck his mount in the face with his whip twice, but videotapes were inconclusive.

Desormeaux saved ground around the first turn with Dublino, got the jump on Megahertz into the far turn while in the two path, and then went four wide entering the stretch. Megahertz, on the other hand, was three wide around the first turn, four wide around the second turn, and six wide into the stretch. With all that ground loss, and with the interference she suffered, it was much to Megahertz's credit that she made the margin as close as it was at the wire.

Triple Bend Handicap

It was unseemly that excuses were at the ready before Kona Gold ran in Saturday's Triple Bend at Hollywood, especially considering the excuses focused on the issue of weight. Kona Gold is a champion. But when there is so much bellyaching over a 126-pound weight assignment, it diminishes this champion's stature.

There was also a lot of talk about how much weight Kona Gold had to concede. He carried 14 pounds more than the upset winner, Disturbingthepeace. Fourteen pounds may sound like a lot, but it is only 1.3 percent of the weight of a 1,100-pound racehorse. That would equate to 2.3 pounds to a 180-pound human. I don't know how much the great Olympic track star Michael Johnson weighs, but say he's 180 pounds. Do you think strapping a summer edition of the Sunday New York Times on Johnson's back would have cost him a race? I don't.

Kona Gold was off the board because, out of fear that Disturbingthepeace would get loose on the lead, he was used early. Kona Gold doesn't want to run that way. He is most effective when allowed to settle early. In any event, Kona Gold lost, so he will get weight off next time. And when he rebounds, people will say it was because of less weight. Don't believe them.