08/14/2002 11:00PM

Don't waste money on You

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Due to a recurring case of Traumatic Tough-Beat Syndrome, my doctor has advised against playing Arlington's Festival Pick Three. Instead I will take two aspirin and focus on Saratoga's Pick Four.

The strategy is simple. Bella Bellucci, who is 3-5 to win the Alabama by as far as you can throw a set of horseshoes, is the single.

Start by throwing out You. She may be a five-time Grade 1 winner, but what can possibly be left in the tank three weeks after such a gut-wrenching stretch duel in the Test? Plus, most observers tend to agree with the assessment of rival trainer Steve Flint, who earlier this week told New York Racing Association press staffers that You ". . . couldn't get a mile and a quarter in a pick-up truck."

Non-believers who point to Bella Bellucci's Acorn pratfall are reminded that Belmont's wet-fast surface of June 7 was extremely speed-favoring.

"That's a throw-out race," said trainer Neil Drysdale. "She didn't handle the track, and that's probably what led to her pulling a muscle."

Skeptics are also directed to the replay monitors to revisit Bella Bellucci's recent allowance tune-up at Belmont, in which she was chased by the older Tax Affair and widened through the lane like a gray locomotive.

Top 10 Spa stinkers

After much deliberation, the judges have released the Top 10 rides most likely to have raised blood pressure levels of race-watchers into the red zone:

10. July 27, 4th race: John Velazquez breaks even-money favorite La Cat from the gate of a 1 1/16-mile turf route, and pulls her up after a dozen strides. The official explanation was that she felt "choppy." As if she didn't feel choppy warming up? La Cat, claimed from the race, walks off the course under her own power.

9. July 29, 4th race: Quiet Delight, who had rated comfortably off an early duel to win last out, is even money in an entry-level allowance sprint and gunned by Robbie Davis into a duel between two longshots through insane fractions of 21.74 and 44.39 seconds. She does well to manage fifth.

8. Aug. 1, 5th race: The Scott Lake-trained Keats and Yeats breaks in front with Mark Guidry, and the understated chart tells us he was "snatched up while rank under restraint along the inside into the first turn, raced along the hedge and finished well."

Lake's succinct post-race comment: "Absolutely horrible."

7. Aug. 3, 5th race: Monopoly breaks from post 12, and gives Jose Santos a good view of Nelson Avenue, and then Union Avenue, while never closer than six paths from the hedge on either turn. She winds up fifth, beaten the grand total of one length. Sheet players will pound her next time.

6. Aug. 5, 5th race: Jerry Bailey puts Good Boy Sam on the lead in this three-turn turf marathon through a trotting-horse first quarter in 26.70, goes six furlongs in 1:18.14, and hangs on by a nose. Shame on everyone else.

5. Aug. 9, 2nd race: Wild Years is the need-to-lead speed of this two-turn allowance route. He breaks on top with Edgar Prado, but then vacates the rail to allow Unbridling the inside and the lead into the clubhouse turn. Unbridling wires the field, and odds-on Wild Years fades to third.

4. Aug. 9, 4th race: Another turf marathon, another wire-to-wire winner as Perfect Stranger survives over Nowrass and Illusionary. Illusionary breaks to the lead with Santos, "was taken back, steadied along inside, checked into the third turn, raced inside, and was steadied in the stretch." Nice.

3. Aug. 9, 5th race: In addition to perfect-trip wins on Unbridling and Celtic Sky in the West Point on this day, Santos gave an Illusionary encore with this gem astride Madeira Mist, the second choice in a turf allowance:

". . .outrun early while in hand, angled out and moved up while widenearing the second turn, was steadied, altered course to the inside on the second turn and raced in traffic inside."

2. Aug. 11, 7th race: Better Talk Now, the even-money choice with Javier Castellano, ". . .rated along early, rallied four wide on the second turn, angled to the inside entering the stretch, and was buried in traffic along the inside through the stretch."

Ultra polite trainer Graham Motion: "In his defense, those one-mile grass races can be very difficult to ride. He was absolutely pinned in the last quarter-mile. I'll point him for the Saranac."

And the number one bad ride is. . .

1. Aug. 12, 2nd race: Jorge Chavez is justifiably regarded as among the best front-end riders in the game. That rep was not forged through exhibitions such as this on 8-5 chalk Regal Sanction, who ". . .opened a clear lead after an alert break, was wrangled back inside, was steadied along the rail, then managed the place spot."

My sympathies to the chart-caller.