10/09/2002 11:00PM

Go European one more time


NEW YORK - Saturday's common theme is 3-year-olds on the turf. The day's big event, the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, is for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles. The main event at Belmont is the $150,000 Lawrence Realization, in which 3-year-olds will go a demanding 1 1/2 miles. Even the Festival of the Sun program at Calder, an extravaganza of nine stakes races, includes the $200,000 Calder Derby and $200,000 Calder Oaks, both for 3-year-olds on the turf. Not surprisingly, several of these races are very playable. Let's start with the one I like best.

Q.E. II Challenge Cup

In recent weeks, we have seen Kazzia come from Europe and win the Flower Bowl, Ballingarry come from Europe and win the Canadian International, Fraulein come from Europe and win the E. P. Taylor, and Landseer come from Europe and win the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile. And, you can make a good case that Pertuisane, who came from Europe for the Garden City Breeders' Cup, would have won at 44-1 were she not so badly blocked in the stretch, and that Banks Hill, who came from Europe and ran in the Yellow Ribbon, could have at least been right there with a better ride.

I don't need to be slapped upside the head to be made aware of what's going on. I'm just going to jump on board and take European invader Zenda in this spot.

At the same time, I have to hope that this ship hasn't already sailed, or that every horseplayer in America doesn't feel the way I do and makes Zenda an unplayable underlay. But, Zenda is a quality filly. She won the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (the French 1000 Guineas) in May, and in her last appearance in June, she just missed in the Group 1 Coronation at Royal Ascot. The Timeform ratings she earned in both races only underscore how dangerous she is here.

But, Zenda will have to be good Saturday to deal with Megahertz, who is my very strong second choice. Megahertz has excellent come-home times this year, none better than when she was nosed last time out in the Del Mar Oaks, when she flew home the last eighth in 11 seconds flat.

Calder Derby

This race is interesting because it attracted an overflow field of 16, and the first three likely favorites - Miesque's Approval, Union Place, and The Judge Sez Who - all have holes in them. It looks like Miesque's Approval's form is going the wrong way while Union Place's will to win is in serious question. The Judge Sez Who would be a kick in the pants if this were on dirt, and with thunderstorms possible, there's a chance he may get his surface. But, he is a huge question mark on turf.

I'm going with Youghal Bay, who is stepping up in class, but who is razor sharp right now. He ran very well when narrowly beaten in an allowance race on turf at Belmont last time out, earning a competitive Beyer Figure of 96. The quality of that race got a boost when the third-place finisher came back to win his next start. With this being only his seventh career start, Youghal Bay still has considerable room for development.

Lawrence Realization

Finality was 9-1 when he beat favored Chiselling back to third in last month's Jamaica Handicap, and although he won't be as juicy a price in the Lawrence Realization, Finality will still be a bigger price than Chiselling. That's because Chiselling looks best equipped in this field to handle the extended distance.

Weather, however, may work to the detriment of a stretch runner like Chiselling and to the benefit of a pace player like Finality. It was supposed to rain in New York on Friday and Saturday, which means the race will likely be run on "off" turf. Speed is never more dangerous on turf than when the going is wet. So, because of his running style, and the likelihood he will be the better price, I will pick Finality to build himself, and hopefully me, a little winning streak.