06/30/2010 11:00PM

Forget the flashy favorite, play Lou Brissie


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Explain to someone not involved in horse racing why many Thoroughbred racehorses are bought as yearlings or spring 2-year-olds, and they will often stare at you with confusion, before asking, "Why would someone choose to spend that kind of money on something that has never run?"

One reason is that they are all potential Kentucky Derby or Oaks winners at that point, making them more valuable, and all that wonderful blue sky can quickly disappear once they have started.

Horse buyers aren't the only ones that succumb to dreams. So, too, do horseplayers -- who tend to analyze races for 2-year-olds much differently than they do races for older, more established horses.

The betting public in 2-year-old races loves flash -- a big Beyer Speed Figure, a dominant maiden win, a pricey sales figure, or some relation to a graded stakes runner.

Horseplayers want to see the next star, or even better, bet the next star, like the horse owner is looking to buy one at auction.

A more rewarding wagering strategy in these races is to filter through the hype. Look for a less speedy 2-year-old proven from off the pace, one who has established himself as a runner, but who might not have the flashy figures or pedigree of others.

Utilizing that thinking, there is a clear standout in Saturday's Grade 3 Bashford at Churchill Downs: Lou Brissie.

Despite being 2 for 2, having won his debut at Keeneland on April 15 and the Grade 3 Kentucky Juvenile on Oaks Day on April 30, Lou Brissie is not the morning-line favorite for the Bashford Manor. He is second choice at 7-5, trailing 6-5 favorite Kantharos, a Stonestreet Stable-owned, Steve Asmussen-trained colt who won his debut in the slop May 13 at Churchill by 11 3/4 lengths.

Kantharos offers most of the things 2-year-old bettors seek: He sold for $250,000 to the connections of such stars as Curlin and Rachel Alexandra and he won by a pole first time out -- leading bettors to feel there is more to come from him.

But looking at the data in the past performances, not the hype, Lou Brissie is the better wager, though unfortunately he's in a short field that limits value. He can win from off the pace, and looks tailor-made for the six-furlong distance of the Bashford Manor. The only thing he lacks is a flashy figure or a win by a large margin.

Look for him to run down the opposition.

Play the board in Locust Grove

A race earlier on the Churchill card Saturday, a deeper field races in the Grade 3 Locust Grove, a race for fillies and mares at a mile.

Headlining the field are Acoma and Keertana, who finished second and third when they raced in the Mint Julep on June 5. That day, Acoma was 7-2 odds and Keertana 7-5, numbers that could very well flip-flop in the Locust Grove.

The reason? Acoma was making her first start since November in the Mint Julep, and the public will likely anticipate a forward move from her in her second start of the year.

But it has been my experience that horses who move forward the most second time off the bench are not those that ran so well, as Acoma did, but rather those with substandard or ordinary races.

Acoma fired in the Mint Julep and was a head better than Keertana at the finish. And if the odds are indeed swapped in the Locust Grove, I will take the better price of the two Saturday -- likely Keertana.

Convocation price play in Suburban

A favorable wager exists in Saturday's Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park, a race that drew two lengthy comebackers in I Want Revenge and Regal Ransom.

With those two horses untested this year, the race is ripe for an upset. And the horse most likely to pull it off is Convocation. A one-turn specialist, he is well suited to the long one-turn nature of the 1 1/8-mile Suburban at Belmont Park, as well as the pace, which is expected to be lively due to the presence of Pictural, a rabbit for I Want Revenge.

A talented 3-year-old last year who ran second in the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park, Convocation comes off a respectable fourth in the Grade 1 Met Mile after a slow start.

Against easier company and seemingly having fitness edge, he should win the Suburban under a stalking trip from jockey Kent Desormeaux.