01/11/2007 12:00AM

Fair Grounds pick four a quality play


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Far too often there is a negative correlation between quality and quantity in racing. Typically the better the runners, the shorter the size of a field - with the obvious exceptions of races like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup events, races that because of their prestige are rarely short on participants.

So it is a refreshing change to see that on Saturday Fair Grounds is hosting five stakes races that drew mostly medium- to large-sized fields. The card is a bettor's delight, and the all-stakes pick four that comprises the final four of the five stakes presents a wagering challenge.

There are no obvious singles in the pick four, but over the long term it is unwise to play too many combinations in gimmick wagers without taking a stand. So I will key Get Ready Bertie in the Tiffany Lass Stakes, the eighth race and the third of the four stakes in the pick four. She has the necessary class, and her stalking style should help her in a field that has an above-average amount of pace.

Before expanding further on Get Ready Bertie in the Tiffany Lass, here is how I see the stakes that are a part of the pick four, beginning with the first leg, the Colonel Power.

Colonel Power (race 6)

Five of the nine runners in this six-furlong race exit the Bonapaw Stakes, including three - Smalltown Slew, Venomous and Monkey Hill - who finished within a half-length of each other when they ran second through fourth in that race.

I narrowly favor Smalltown Slew (No. 6) to win on the basis of his consistency. Claimed for $30,000 in February by trainer Tom Amoss and owner Steve Mongerson, he has compiled a record of 4 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third in 10 starts since. He has not won since July, but is faster than ever, according to his Beyer Speed Figures.

Also on my tickets will the speedy Meteor Impact (No. 7), who has won 3 of his last 4, all in Louisiana-bred company. His biggest win to date: a length victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on Dec. 9.

Lastly, I will also use Private Vow (No. 5). He largely underachieved as a 3-year-old in 2006, partially the result of unsuccessful attempts routing. But he won the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Futurity as a juvenile in 2005.

Dr. A. B. Leggio Memorial (race 7)

This turf sprint drew a deep field. Smitty's Sunshine (No. 3), upset winner of the Pent Up Kiss Stakes at Churchill Downs Nov. 12, is the most likely winner based on her speed and class. But she is far from a sure thing.

I will go four deep in this 14-horse race, also using Follow the Lite (No. 8), Hatpin (No. 6), and All for Fashion (No. 13). All three are stakes winners, with only All for Fashion having not won a stakes race on turf.

Tiffany Lass (race 8)

Whatdreamsrmadeof and Stage Stop are threats, but if Get Ready Bertie (No. 5) runs to her potential, she should win. She ran second in the Grade 2 Demoiselle in late November, a good effort but a race less than her best. Running on less than three weeks rest, she seemed to bounce slightly off an allowance victory at Churchill Downs Nov. 7, a race in which she whipped the well-bred Autobahn Girl by four lengths.

Autobahn Girl came back to beat Whatdreamsrmadeof in an allowance late in the Churchill meet, which indicates just how well Get Ready Bertie performed in winning at Churchill Nov. 7.

Lecomte (race 9)

The headline race of the day, the Grade 3 Lecomte drew some colts who could develop into major players on the road toward the Kentucky Derby. Pennsylvania-bred Hard Spun looks like the real deal, having won all three of his starts in a gallop, but I have seen enough Northeastern invaders be upset at Fair Grounds over the years to know he is not a cinch.

Hard Spun (No. 3) is the most probable winner and will be on my pick four ticket, but I will also include two others, Izzies Halo (No. 4) and Teuflesberg (No. 7). Big things were expected from Izzies Halo after he ran a close second in the Cradle Stakes. After a couple of mediocre efforts, he got his act together with a big local win last month. As for the stakes-winning Teuflesberg, he is clearly a colt of top quality. The issue with him is the one-mile distance of the Lecomte. He has stopped in two prior attempts running two turns, but in a pair of brutally tough races, the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Against these, and with the benefit of a little more experience, he should run more competitively this time around.

The ticket

Playing the horses outlined results in a ticket that reads like this: $1 pick four part-wheel of 6,7,5 with 3,8,6,13 with 5 with 3,4,7. Total cost: $36.