10/11/2007 12:00AM

Good Mood set to turn it on late

EmailNEW YORK - The major preps for the Breeders' Cup might be behind us now, but there is no letup on the national stakes schedule Saturday. The richest stakes on the schedule is the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, one of two graded stakes to be run at Keeneland.

Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup

I'm taking stands in this race against Dreaming of Anna, and against the second and third finishers in the Grade 1 Garden City, Bit of Whimsy and Sharp Susan. While Dreaming of Anna is looking for her fourth straight turf stakes win, she is meeting tougher company than she has lately and there appears to be enough speed in here to challenge her, if not right out of the box, then certainly in the middle stages. As for Bit of Whimsy and Sharp Susan, I wonder how well they really ran in the Garden City since they were both close to a very slow early pace and had no answer for Alexander Tango, who came from last to win.

Of course, now that the fates have been tempted, I can see how some might feel there is suddenly an easy trifecta box in this race.

In any event, Good Mood is my play here. Good Mood was ridiculously far back early in the Lake George in her most recent start and got going too late, yet was beaten only 3o1/2 lengths for all the money. Two starts back, Good Mood turned in a strong performance winning the Regret from off the pace, a style that is preferred here given the projected pace scenario. Notably, the Regret was the only time in Good Mood's career that she went 1 1/8 miles, which is the distance she'll go Saturday, and she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97, which is the best in this field.

Hawthorne Derby

Here's hoping that Twilight Meteor goes off close to the 4-1 he is in the morning line, because he looks solid in this spot.

Although he had excuses in his two starts at Woodbine during the summer - he packed it in on Polytrack in the Queen's Plate and he failed to stay 1 1/2 miles when second in the Breeders' Stakes - Twilight Meteor signaled a return to top form last time out in the Kent Breeders' Cup. Going the same nine furlongs he will in this race, Twilight Meteor's strong stretch kick was back on display, as he just missed catching Nobiz Like Shobiz. Nobiz Like Shobiz, of course, remained undefeated on turf by winning last week's Jamaica Handicap in such compelling fashion that it has his conservative connections reconsidering a go at the Breeders' Cup Mile. There are no Nobiz Like Shobizes in this race, but there is plenty of early zip to set up Twilight Meteor's late run.

Oak Tree Derby

Although he doesn't do it that often, I always take a second look at horses John Gosden brings to this country from Europe, because I remember what a sharp trainer he was when he was based in the United States. Last month, for example, he brought the overlooked Costume over for the Garden City, and she came within less than a length of winning at 12-1. Gosden is back again in this race with Asperity, and I'm going with him.

Asperity has the European class lines to be competitive in a spot like this. He won a Group 3 in France in June, and was beaten a little more than two lengths in a Group 2 in his most recent start. After competing at either eight or 10 furlongs in his last four outings, Asperity looks like a good fit for the nine furlongs of this race, and his comment lines suggest he could be a forward factor from the outset in a race that doesn't have a whole lot of early speed.