11/20/2008 1:00AM

Four tips for horseplayers who like to read


Along the lines of the Patty Larkin song, "The Book I'm Not Reading," here's a list of racing titles published in the last year or so that I keep meaning to read but just haven't gotten around to yet. Any of them might make a thoughtful gift for the horseplayer in your life - even if that special someone is you.

w "Horse racing Coast to Coast, The Traveler's Guide to the Sport of Kings," by Michael Walmsley and Marlene Smith-Baranzini (Bowtie Press, 328, pages, $24.95). This is like one of those Fodor's books for those with a mind to get out on the road and visit racetracks across North America. It has profiles on 65 racetracks, nearby food and lodging, points of interest, and more than 300 photos and illustrations printed on high-quality glossy paper.

It says on the back cover: "Get ready to win, place . . . or just show up at your favorite racetrack!" Who knows? Maybe I'll get somewhere besides Aqueduct this winter!

* "The Horse That God Built, the untold story of Secretariat, the world's greatest racehorse," by Lawrence Scanlan (St. Martin's Press, 335 pages, $24.95): Probably first on my list to read, this is not only the story of the legendary Big Red, but also a tribute to his groom, Eddie Sweat, who spent more time with him than anyone else.

* "Not By a Longshot, a season at a hard-luck horse track," by T.D. Thornton, Public Affairs Press, 356 pages, $26). This is an insider's chronicle of Suffolk Downs, a.k.a. "Sufferin' Downs," the blue-collar East Boston, Mass., track, and some of its most engaging and hardscrabble participants.

* "Tropical Downs, a novel of peril and misadventure in search of the automatic bet," by Mark Cramer (DRF Press, 288 pages, $14.95). The ink is barely dry on this latest novel by the well-known contrarian horseplayer who, in addition to several fine handicapping books, also penned the horseplayer-driven novels "Please Hold All Tickets" and "Scared Money."

Stop the presses! Favorite wins on turf!

I like turf racing as much as any other racing fan, but it's safe to say I speak for the majority of New York's public handicappers in saying, "Thank goodness the grass-racing season is almost over."

Flibberjibit, who was to shoot for her sixth straight win off a claim by Bruce Brown in race 7 on Friday, won the first turf race of the meet as a lukewarm $6.80 favorite - but then 21 consecutive favorites tanked.

After rain wiped out turf racing four straight days last week, Tempest Storm ($7.20) finally ended the favorites' losing streak on Wednesday. Things got back to normal Thursday when 25-1 shot Barefoot Babe, beaten 29 lengths in two dirt starts, switched to the grass and ran down 9-5 chalk Mosaic in deep stretch to win.

Usually, combinations of four logical winners don't provide much value in the pick four, because they're covered by a lot of small tickets. Be that as it may, Tempest Storm (now 3 for 3 on turf after being claimed by Gary Contessa) kicked off Wednesday's early pick four and was followed by $6.20 second choice Be Bullish, $6 favorite Zipolina, and $10.60 second choice Swift Strike. The $2 payoff of $1,033 was nearly three times the $2 win parlay ($354.80), and a strong reminder of the bet's potential to produce value.

Persaud-Studart a hot combo

Successful trainer-jockey combinations such as Todd Pletcher-John Velazquez are known by all, but lately at the Big A, no combo has been hotter than trainer Randi Persaud and seven-pound apprentice Maylan Studart.

Through Wednesday, Studart had won with 7 of 33 mounts, a 21 percent rate - topped only by Edgar Prado this meet, and she also had the top average win mutuel of $27.50. That was due in large part to riding five winners for Persaud, who has gone 5-4-1 from 14 starters: Decorated Court ($104.50); More than a Reason ($32.40); Senor Enrico ($13.20); Unbridled Union ($12.40); and Wood Winner ($9.80).

Meanwhile, retired New York City firefighter Joe Aquilino has gone 2-2-1 with 8 starters, saddling winners Gift of Valor ($52.50) and Well Meant ($24.60), as well as runners-up Linda's Baby (42-1) and Building New Era (6-1).

Aquilino used high-profile riders Eibar Coa on Building New Era and Alan Garcia on Well Meant, but David Cardoso handled Linda's Baby and Gift of Valor. Gift of Valor may be sorry to see the main track close. She is 3-1-0 from 5 starts over it, and 0-0-8 from 28 starts on all other surfaces.