10/30/2006 1:00AM

Go ahead, make my Breeders' Cup Day


NEW YORK - Some things I would like to see in this Breeders' Cup:

* Definitive evidence as to whether Polytrack is a suitable surface on which to prep. Someday, there will likely be a Breeders' Cup conducted over a Polytrack surface. Until there is, there will be debate over whether a horse can successfully prep on Polytrack for a Breeders' Cup race run over a conventional dirt surface. Let's find out right now. Polytrack preps run mainly at Keeneland could have an impact on the Juvenile Fillies, the Juvenile, the Sprint, and the Distaff. Here's hoping the results on Saturday will provide conclusive proof of whether Polytrack Breeders' Cup preps in the future should be discounted or taken at face value.

* Catch the Fire in the Juvenile Fillies. It won't happen, because the Breeders' Cup Selection committee buried her in fourth position on the alternates order of preference list. That was an egregious error. Last time out, in her first start on a surface other than turf, Catch the Fire spread-eagled her field in a $250,000 stakes race at Woodbine, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, which is the second-fastest of the 24 pre-entries at two turns on a surface other than turf. Catch the Fire is by A.P. Indy out of a Seeking the Gold mare, and hails from one of Canada's best barns. She might be another Dance Smartly. But she won't get a chance to show it on Saturday, and that's crazy considering the merits of some of the fillies ranked ahead of her.

* A 2-year-old filly - any 2-year-old filly - really stepping up in the Juvenile Fillies. There are many questions about even the most prominent members of this race. Was Cash Included's Oak Leaf enhanced by a speed bias? How much did Polytrack cloud the Alcibiades? Is there any excuse for the Frizette being run that slowly? It would be nice if the winner of the Juvenile Fillies won decisively, and without leaving any lingering questions.

* An immediate recall of the Bernardini-Lava Man tale-of-the-tape posters that will be circulating all around Louisville this week. In case you haven't seen them, these posters are like the old-time fight posters and are meant to drum up a rivalry and boost interest in the Classic. The problem is, they are so contrived, let alone inaccurate. The story of this Classic is not Bernardini vs. Lava Man vs. 12 other manes and tails. Did someone forget about Invasor? If Lava Man upsets Bernardini, he will be Horse of the Year. but the same is true of Invasor. There is no rivalry between Bernardini and Lava Man. If Discreet Cat does not enter the Classic, as expected, Bernardini's odds will be around 4-5 and Lava Man will be around 5-1. Where's the rivalry in that?

* Some horse - any horse - to present a genuine challenge to Bernardini in the Classic. Okay, this assumes Bernardini will run away with the Classic as he has with almost everything else. But it would be far more interesting to see how Bernardini would respond, and what he might really be capable of, if presented with a truly serious challenge at a critical juncture of the race.

* More Randy Moss on ESPN's Breeders' Cup telecast. Moss is a unique combination of outstanding handicapper and outstanding television commentator. Because he is such a good handicapper, Moss knows immediately after a race whether it was well run, its comparative meaning, and its potential future impact. And because he is so comfortable on the air, he has a way of presenting his analysis in a way that satisfies both novice and expert racing fans. Moss is the best thing on horse racing on ESPN by a long way, and if the network is smart, it should take full advantage of that. In fact, Moss is probably the best television racing analyst to ever have come down the pike.

* A moratorium by horsemen on playing the "lack of respect" card. It is inevitable that there will be at least one longshot winner on Saturday, and it is almost as inevitable that after a bomber wins, the winning owner or trainer will complain about the lack of respect his or her horse received beforehand. They should know that horses earn respect by performance on the track. They should also know that with millions upon millions of dollars bet into a worldwide pool, there is good reason why their horse was sent off at, say, 30-1. Instead of whining, enjoy the moment. Hey, you just won a race worth at least $2 million, and you probably cashed a nice bet, too.

* For once, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner not being labeled the favorite for next year's Kentucky Derby. Despite the record of utter futility of Juvenile winners in the Derby, and despite the increasing disconnect between 2-year-old and 3-year-old Triple Crown form, it happens every year. Moments after a horse crosses the finish line first in the Juvenile, it is proclaimed that we now have a favorite for the Derby. And there is liable to be even greater emphasis on that this year, what with the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, the site of the Derby as well. Instead, how about telling it like it is: The Juvenile winner has probably just clinched a divisional championship, but history tells us he faces an uphill struggle to be a significant factor at 3.