05/10/2005 11:00PM

Double-check all declarations of bias

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When is a track bias really not a track bias?

Handicappers should always monitor horses who ran with and against the grain of a track bias when they return to action, to make sure that they labeled the bias accurately in the first place. After all, a misjudged bias can be costly when future handicapping decisions are made.

A prime example of a bias that might have been misread by many, including yours truly, was on opening weekend of the Woodbine meeting, April 16-17. Outside runners dominated the proceedings on those two cards, especially on opening day, when nobody racing in the first two paths got home on top. The apparent bias helped propel 40-1 shot Oceanbound to victory in the final race on the card.

Subsequent results, however, have revealed that many inside runners on opening weekend have come back to disappoint, while horses who were outside on those days have since done well.

Sirona Gold rushed up the rail in the first race of the meeting, an entry-level allowance, and gave way in deep stretch to finish a respectable second to a winter-trained rival. She reappeared in a $32,000 claimer last Saturday, and could manage only third as the second choice in a five-horse field.

Chris's Bad Boy, Woodbine's six-furlong track record-holder, dueled up front in the two path in the opening-day feature, the Jacques Cartier Stakes, before fading to fourth at a chalky 4-5. Two weeks later, he stretched out from six to seven furlongs in the Grade 3 Vigil Handicap, and trailed the field after setting a tepid pace.

Judiths Wild Rush benefited from the perceived bias in the Jacques Cartier, in which he rallied wide to be beaten a nose, but came back to post a 5-1 upset in the Vigil, leaving champions Mobil and A Bit O'Gold in his wake.

Shades of Light ran a deceptively good race on opening day, finishing third after outlasting several other front-runners while hugging the rail. She failed to flash any speed in her next start at the same $20,000 level, and was never in contention.

One inside runner on opening day who came back to win was Molinaro Native, the runner-up in the finale, who toppled $16,000 maidens in his next try.

Two rail runners prevailed on the April 17 card, during which longshots Rodeo Fun and Lit de Jimmy scored after mounting big, wide rallies. Two inside runners on that program who came back to bomb were Olympian and Birdontheridge.

Maybe there was a legitimate outside bias on opening weekend, and some of the horses who ran over the tougher footing failed to get much out of their races, thereby setting themselves up for a dull next out. For whatever reason, it has certainly been a case of "bettor beware" when sizing up the chances of those who ran with or against the perceived bias.

Speed ruled two cards last week

Speed was clearly the dominant running style on May 4, when front-runners and pace-pressers won all eight races. Those who fared well against the bias included first-time starter Princessjadynatto, who closed inside for second after breaking a bit slowly in the third race on the card.

American Doc and Fairchild's Creek both closed belatedly in the fifth event. American Doc wound up third after breaking from post 11 and rallying five wide in that five-furlong maiden claimer.

Kateri came from ninth and last on the turn in the slow-paced sixth race to finish a respectable third. Victorious Miss Lily sizzled six furlongs in 1:10.80 after leading throughout that $20,000 race for nonwinners of two.

Why Not Gold and Flashy Mike both made up some ground in the seventh, finishing second and third, respectively. Open Chronicle came from midpack in the eighth to be third.

Speed was also quite effective May 5, although the bias wasn't as strong as on the previous night. Front-runners and stalkers got the job done in seven of the eight races, with the lone exception coming in the fourth, when a closing Minstrel Miss overcame traffic problems in the stretch to win by daylight.