07/21/2005 12:00AM

Exceptional Ride good value play


NEW YORK - The last Saturday of the Belmont spring-summer meet finds the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, the middle leg of the New York Racing Association's triple crown for fillies, as the main event, while the first Saturday of the Del Mar meet has the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap as the feature race.

And at Arlington Park, the American Derby, the Arlington Handicap, and the Modesty Handicap make up Arlington Million Preview Day.

American Derby

Purim is unbeaten and pretty much untested after the first three starts of his career. Merger came all the way from Ireland for the always-dangerous trainer Dermot Weld. Gun Salute in his last two performances earned Beyer Speed Figures higher than anyone in this field has ever earned. The attributes of these horses in this spot are obvious, which means they will command a good deal of the betting action in this race. That's fine with me, because that means I may actually get a good price on Exceptional Ride.

Exceptional Ride comes into this off two solid races. In the first of those, he won the Awad Stakes over Arlington's turf course, getting up with a furious finish that saw him run his final quarter mile in approximately 22.80 seconds, and that over yielding footing.

That score earned Exceptional Ride a trip last time out to the Colonial Turf Cup, where he had the misfortune of running into English Channel, who won that race as well as the subsequent Virginia Derby to prove without question that he is the best 3-year-old turf horse in the nation. Despite finishing second to the best 3-year-old turf horse in the nation in his last start, rallying into a slow pace, Exceptional Ride may be as high as fourth choice in the betting.

John C. Mabee Handicap

The key to this race is the 1 1/8-mile distance. Intercontinental handled Ticker Tape last time out in the Royal Heroine going one mile. But at this longer distance, I'm betting Ticker Tape turns the tables on Intercontinental, whose one attempt in this country going as far as nine furlongs was a disastrous loss at 4-5 in the Diana.

Ticker Tape ran well when second in the Royal Heroine. It was only her second start of the year and represented significant improvement over her 2005 bow two months earlier. Ticker Tape is more effective going longer, and that she ran so well in the Royal Heroine after being closer to the front than she is accustomed to will stand her in good stead Saturday, since there is a decided lack of early pace once again.

Coaching Club American Oaks

For all the talk about how much upside Smuggler and Spun Sugar have, and what a nice filly Summerly is, the fact of the matter is, these one-two-three finishers last time out in the Mother Goose have yet to run really fast. Smuggler's winning Beyer Figure in the Mother Goose was only a 93, and she worked very hard to beat Spun Sugar, and to earn that number.

With that in mind, I'm going to take For All We Know, a lightly raced "stranger" who has won all three of her starts. For All We Know has already run fast enough to be competitive, and yet she has more license than her opposition to take another significant step forward.

For All We Know has won over three different tracks (Gulfstream, Keeneland, and Arlington), and in two of those wins, she earned Beyers of 96, which ties for the second highest career Beyer Figure in this field. She could wind up sitting a perfect stalking trip just off Summerly and Spun Sugar, and her pedigree suggests she should handle the stretch out in distance.


Arlington Park: American Derby
3-year-olds, 1 3/16 miles, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-3:56 p.m., Central-2:56 p.m., Mountain-1:56 p.m., Pacific-12:56 p.m.; Arlington Heights, Il., forecast: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees

1General Jumbo8585658-1
3Cosmic Kris83787812-1
4Exceptional Ride8484904-1
5Earths Vain Shadow80746830-1
7Gun Salute9493835-2
8Gold Minister76837115-1

Track morning line odds

Belmont Park: Coaching Club American Oaks
Fillies, 3-years-old, 1 1/2 miles

Approximate post: E-4:45 p.m., C-3:45 p.m., M-2:45 p.m., P-1:45 p.m.; Elmont, N. Y., forecast: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees

1Atlas Valley83808530-1
2Spun Sugar9394935-2
4For All We Know9689965-1
7Seeking the Ante83939220-1
8Bayou Breeze7987705-2
9Pleasant Chimes86837620-1

Coupled: Spun Sugar and Bayou Breeze; odds by Art Gropper

Del Mar: John C. Mabee Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-7:44 p.m., C-6:44 p.m., M-5:44 p.m., P-4:44 p.m.; Del Mar, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees

3Ticker Tape9982964-1
7Island Fashion98767910-1
8Halo Ola9890n/a20-1

Odds by Art Gropper