06/12/2003 11:00PM

Don't be fooled by big class drops

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One large class drop by a claiming horse isn't necessarily a negative sign. But two or more consecutive large class drops suggest that a horse's form is probably on the decline, and that he is worth trying to beat at underlaid odds next time out. There were a couple of examples of this phenomenon on Wednesday and Thursday at Churchill.

Justice Bites had finished third with a 90 Beyer in a one-other-than allowance at Keeneland last year. He ran well enough in his first two races back after an 11-month layoff to encourage his connections to try him against allowance company at Churchill. But he regressed from an 86 Beyer to a 67 in that race, then dropped multiple class levels to run for $17,500. Justice Bites finished fourth of eight in that race at 5-2, then dropped steeply again to run for $7,500 in Wednesday's fifth race. Albarado had been aboard for the drop last time, and stuck with him again as he was bet down to 8-5.

Justice Bites, trained by Bobby Barnett, was fortunate to win the photo for third while losing to 15-1 outsider Glacier Point and 58-1 longshot World Tour. That pair combined for a $1,416.80 exacta.

Do It My Way had won five of his last six races, including a 3 1/4-length victory with a 93 Beyer in a three-other-than allowance at Turfway three races ago on March 16. It was surprising to see that he had dropped to run for a $25,000 claiming price just 20 days later. Bettors accepted his form at face value and watched him check in fifth of seven as the 2-1 choice at Keeneland. He was claimed out of that race, then dropped to $17,500. To his credit, and to the credit of trainer Bob Pincins, Do It My Way won that race by a head, earning an 83 Beyer.

He was claimed again by Joe Woodard. It would not have been a surprise to see him jump back up in class for his new connections. But he didn't. Instead, he dropped into a $12,500 claiming race on Thursday, and finished seventh of 11 as the 9-5 favorite. Do It My Way's poor effort, combined with the unfortunate breakdown of second betting choice Saints Cup, paved the way for a number of large payoffs in the exotics. Hakoda won the race at 34-1. Whereisspringfield was second at 6-1. Murph's Encore finished third at 19-1, and Crispy Jet was fourth at 12-1. The exacta paid $479.80, the trifecta was worth $5,617.60, and the superfecta was a huge home run at $48,262.20.

The longshots who ran well in both of those races were not easy to pick. But it was still helpful to be able to identify those races as being good spots to hunt for long-priced runners to use in the exotics.

Churchill track trends

For those who are interested in daily track bias trends at Churchill, the main track was kinder than usual to early and tactical speed from June 5-7. Although there were no front-running winners, tactical speed was still a good thing in the slop on June 11. Five of the 10 winners on the dirt were second at the first call. One came from third, and another from fourth.

Mid-pack runners and closers have been preferred on the turf, where seven of the last eight winners through Thursday's card were fourth or farther back at the first call. Three of them were next to last at that point.