10/11/2006 11:00PM

Getting a jump on Cup homework


ARCADIA, Calif. - It was a quiet week, free from Breeders' Cup overkill, until it was ruined by Peter Mallet and Jim Mazur.

So the excess begins early this year, and Mallet and Mazur can be blamed for disrupting the calm before the Breeders' Cup storm. Mallet and Mazur are co-authors of "Crushing the Cup 2006," which last week arrived by mail - too soon, if you ask me.

Any other periodical would be easily shuffled, to be read later. But for some strange reason, "Crushing the Cup" cannot hide under Time or Rolling Stone or even Daily Racing Form. "Crushing the Cup" always works up to the top of the stack. It commands attention.

This would not be a bad thing except that I have a life, and a job. And not enough time to dissect a 142-page handicapping transcript on the Breeders' Cup, and begin analyzing races still weeks away. Mallet and Mazur really messed up my schedule, because after picking up "Crushing the Cup," I could not put it down.

My brain filled with wild ideas, including the conviction that creative, well-prepared horseplayers (i.e., "Crushing the Cup" readers) stand a real chance of making serious money when the Breeders' Cup is run Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

Mallet and Mazur have been at it 15 years - reporting on the handicapping angles that apply to the Breeders' Cup, and backing their analysis at the betting windows. If they were just a couple know-it-all shysters, they could easily be dismissed. But these guys are legitimate, I am certain.

In their 15th edition of "Crushing the Cup," Mallet and Mazur provide handicappers with invaluable insight specific to the Breeders' Cup. Their book includes Beyer pars, Beyer patterns, key running styles, notable preps, details on the nuances of Churchill Downs, and clarification to the difference between significant and insignificant angles.

Mallet and Mazur are fun to read, beyond misspellings and editing mistakes that would make a copy editor cringe. No one is perfect, including the co-authors. (More than once, they admit to handicapping mistakes - "We were wrong.") Betting horses well requires one to recognize blunders, and learn from them. Mazur and Mallet are good at that.

Here we are three weeks out, and after reading "Crushing the Cup," I feel as well prepared for this Breeders' Cup as any that preceded it.

That does not mean I have all the answers, or the right horses. For the next three weeks, the goal is to find them. After reading "Crushing the Cup," I am confident the 2006 Breeders' Cup will either crush me, or I will crush it.

Either way, I am prepared. No excuse for failure. For that, I blame Mallet and Mazur.

The cover price for "Crushing the Cup" is $29.95; it is available through DRF Press or proghandicap.com.

Some details to be dealt with

Sometime between now and Nov. 4, handicappers must resolve a number of Breeders' Cup issues. Including . . .

* If the Classic is a foregone conclusion to be won by Bernardini, someone must explain the reason so many European turf horses are aiming for the race. Maybe high-figure Bernardini will come up short like the overpaid, underachieving New York Yankees. The Classic is not run on paper, and no horse this year has finished in front of Lava Man.

* It is impossible not to root for the 8-year-old gelding The Tin Man in the Turf. But his biggest win came in his loose-on-the-lead Arlington Million, he faced nondescript rivals all year in California, and as "Crushing the Cup" points out, the combined Turf record for horses 6 years old and up is 0 for 24.

* Happy Ticket's nightmare trip in the Spinster was under-reported until the Friday edition of Daily Racing Form. Happy Ticket belongs in the Distaff, as does the mare who drilled her at Del Mar - Healthy Addiction. The Spinster has produced more Distaff winners (10) than any prep, but the 2006 edition on Polytrack sure looked phony.

* The shadow of Too Much Bling looms behind Sprint favorite Henny Hughes. The fact is that there is not much separating the two brilliant 3-year-olds on speed figures. Too Much Bling is fresh, and will be at least twice the price.

* Aragorn will be the Mile selection of many California handicappers. But it would have been comforting to see a stronger prep than his one-length victory over entry-level allowance winner Courtnall. Or maybe Aragorn was just toying with that rival.

* Great Hunter won the Breeders' Futurity, on Polytrack, with a 90 Beyer to emerge as a top 2-year-old. Stormello won the Norfolk Stakes, on dirt, with a 96 Beyer, yet received scant publicity. Good, it means higher odds on Stormello. As for Circular Quay, he sure runs like a late-running sprinter.

* Quick Little Miss bucked a speed bias rallying to third in the Oak Leaf Stakes. While she is too slow (81 Beyer top) to win the Juvenile Fillies, she may hit the board and turn the vertical exotics into a jackpot. "Crushing the Cup' identifies pace characteristics of 2-3-4 finishers, and longshot closers such as Quick Little Miss often hit the board.

* If she runs in the Filly and Mare Turf, European 3-year-old Germance will be awfully tough. She can stay 1o3/8 miles (farther than favorites Gorella and Wait a While), she is a Group 1 winner, and six starts produced five wins and a second. Sounds like a good bet, if the price is right.

Three weeks until the Breeders' Cup. Wish it was today.