10/19/2005 11:00PM

Few good prospects among Californians

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Eighteen of the 117 horses pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup made their last start in Southern California. Some are badly overrated; others have knockout potential. Let's take a look, in the order the races will be run.

Juvenile Fillies: Diamond Omi won a slow Oak Leaf (79 Beyer) with a rail-skimming trip, and probably would not even ship except owner Donald Dizney has never had a BC starter. Diamond Omi's improving pace and speed figures remain well below Grade 1 par. Her main attribute is an upward pattern.

Wild Fit was below form, possibly due to light training, when she ran second in the Oak Leaf. Since then, the screws have been tightened and her coat has brightened. Her Del Mar Debutante one back was super. Back off a maiden win in 13 days, she was steadied repeatedly, and still won going away. The knock is she beat no one. California fillies have been exposed as weak.

Juvenile: Brother Derek could be a bomber. His fast-early, slow-late Norfolk was a quintessential "wake-up" by a 2-year-old who may actually prefer rallying from behind. Brother Derek will offer wagering value for those able to look past his last two 81 Beyer Figures, and the above-par pace figure he earned last out hints at a breakout performance.

Jealous Profit underwent minor throat surgery after he entrapped finishing a wide-trip third in the Norfolk. One start back in the Del Mar Futurity, he got slammed hard at the start and then closed well for third. But was it an optical illusion? The pace fell apart. His quality remains undetermined, but he has not yet had a fair chance.

Stevie Wonderboy skipped the Norfolk, purportedly to enter the BC fresh. A smashing win in the closers-dominated Del Mar Futurity stamped him as a top colt, and the one-turn Juvenile fits perfectly. Slow works are typical for trainer Doug O'Neill. This talented colt enters as a genuine contender from off the pace, even if he did skip his final prep.

Filly and Mare Turf: Flip Flop put up only minimal resistance when Megahertz ran past her in the Yellow Ribbon. Furthermore, the fillies Flip Flop has defeated are recently undistinguished. Notwithstanding her runner-up finish last time in a shallow Grade 1, Flip Flop has not proven herself top class.

Megahertz has led a charmed campaign, compiling an enviable record (4 wins, 1 second) against ordinary opponents. She is not as good as her record indicates, and even Megahertz's second-place in the Grade 1 Beverly D. has been exposed - her Beverly D. rivals are a combined 0 for 11 since that race. Megahertz packs a wicked turn of foot against modest Grade 2-caliber foes on fast footing, but her record is not quite what it appears.

Sprint: Lifestyle is an allowance colt who has done little to suggest he is a Grade 1 sprinter. Bilo, the horse who blew away Lifestyle last out, returned to disappoint in the Ancient Title. This will be Lifestyle's first start in a graded stakes, and his first start since Aug. 21.

Roman Ruler is a horse without a proper distance. As a mature 3-year-old, he is not quick enough to get up at six furlongs, and not good enough to beat older at classic distances. His runner-up finish in the Goodwood was the result of a ridiculously slow pace.

Mile: Singletary looked super defeating a suspect field in the Oak Tree Mile. The runner-up had not raced in 16 months; the third-place finisher is from a cold stable (1 for 44 this year). Furthermore, the Oak Tree Mile was weakly run early. Singletary smoked home, but if he was not the defending BC Mile champ, the race would be largely ignored. Is Singletary the same horse he was last year? His inconsistency this year casts doubt.

Distaff: Healthy Addiction has taken her game to the highest level, and her last-start victory in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret was better than originally perceived - under pressure throughout, she earned career-best pace and speed figures. Trainer John Sadler said he believes a wet track will benefit Healthy Addiction. At double-digit odds, she looms a potential spoiler.

Hollywood Story originally was not going to make the trip after an ordinary prep. Her three career wins have been at Hollywood Park; conventional thinking holds she also will like sandy Belmont Park. Problem is, her best race is not quite BC caliber.

Island Fashion ranks among the most poorly managed fillies in recent years. Repeatedly miscast this year against males in Grade 1's (ninth at 38-1 in the Pacific Classic; ninth at 28-1 in the Santa Anita Handicap), Island Fashion had the Lady's Secret won in deep stretch last time, but was outrun late. On paper and on the track, she appears past her prime.

Turf: Fourty Niners Son took advantage of a perfect ground-saving trip against modest foes to win the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch. But he also finished a solid third in the Arlington Million, and his runner-up finish three back in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at Del Mar was quite good considering he had no pace to run at. What you see is what you get - an honest, improving gelding.

Laura's Lucky Boy wants every bit of 1 1/2 miles, but the main reason he was entered is because his owner and trainer already are making the BC trip with Rock Hard Ten. The only excuse for Laura's Lucky Boy last time was the "short" 10-furlong distance. He finished fourth, and hung through the lane.

Leprechaun Kid is the 2005 version of ill-fated Star Over the Bay - a former claimer who became a graded stakes winner for trainer Mike Mitchell. Leprechaun Kid is not as good as Star Over the Bay, however, and he is a front-runner accustomed to firm California footing. Soft ground will do Leprechaun Kid no favors.

Classic: Choctaw Nation ran well in the Goodwood, rallying from behind a slow pace to miss by only two. Choctaw Nation has lost his punch late in all three of his 1 1/4-mile races, however, and is more effective at shorter distances. A good horse, he is ambitiously spotted.

Rock Hard Ten won his comeback in the slow-pace Goodwood, which mistakenly has been called the "perfect prep." It was not perfect, and perhaps was a worst-case prep. A slowly run race hardly provides sufficient foundation for the BC Classic. Rock Hard Ten is a top horse, and can win for that reason. But one slow race in seven months means he basically enters off works. He could fall well short of handicappers' expectations.