09/13/2006 11:00PM

Good Reward a fitting play


NEW YORK - By far the most important race on the continent this weekend is Sunday's $1 million Woodbine Mile, a serviceable stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Mile. Otherwise, the weekend stakes schedule this side of the border is relatively light.

Brooklyn Handicap

Wanderin Boy was a program scratch in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Labor Day weekend. He should have run. With the way speed was holding on Woodward Day, and with the way the Woodward was run, with a 31-1 shot edging a 21-1 shot, Wanderin Boy could have easily gone wire to wire in a race that was a Grade 1 and had a purse of more than three times this $150,000 event. But instead of finding a seemingly easier spot Saturday, Wanderin Boy might have actually drawn a tougher setup. He is going to have to deal with serious early pace pressure from Take the Bluff and Funny Cide, and that makes him vulnerable.

Good Reward is a solid play. Good Reward has a strange profile. He is a two-time Grade 1 stakes winner on turf, but his astute connections (trainer Shug McGaughey) appear intent on turning him into a dirt horse. The plan seems to be working. Good Reward's fourth in the Cornhusker two starts back was good considering he broke from post 13, and it was a very quickly run race. His second in the Pacific Classic last time out was even better, as he finished behind only Lava Man, California's best horse by a mile and no worse than the second-best older male in the country. Good Reward rallied in both races, which is unquestionably his most effective style, and that style fits the anticipated pace scenario in this race to a tee.

Floral Park Handicap

This is Belmont's supporting feature, and the early pace in this one figures to be even more hotly contested than in the Brooklyn. Pretty Imposing is overmatched, but she has serious early zip. Stormy Kiss wants the early lead, Indian Flare needs to be right with the pace, and Win McCool can cook early, too.

I know that Swap Fliparoo is a 3-year-old meeting older opponents, and that when she won the Test Stakes at Saratoga last time out the field staggered home through a slow final furlong, a big reason why she was able to pass all 12 of the fillies she met that day. This race also has the potential to fall into her lap, but that is not the only reason why Swap Fliparoo is the bet. Swap Fliparoo's race two starts back is the one that really jumps out at you. That was the Genuine Risk Breeders' Cup, also against her elders and over the same track and at the same distance as this race. After having to angle out sharply in midstretch for racing room, Swap Fliparoo was beaten a diminishing half-length by Behaving Badly. Behaving Badly, the second-best female sprinter in the country behind Dubai Escapade, came back to dominate the Rancho Bernardo in her next start, and would be odds-on if she were in this race.

Woodbine Mile

Three Valleys has been on my list of good horses waiting to happen ever since his excellent third in the Citation Handicap 22 months ago. He did win last year's Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap, and he is the pick to take it to a higher level in this race.

Don't let Three Valleys's narrow win in the relatively obscure Oceanport Handicap at Monmouth last month in his first start this year throw you off. Three Valleys was a more convincing winner than his win margin of a neck would suggest. And the horse that he beat, Hotstufanthensome, although not a household name, came back to run the streaking Miesque's Approval to within a half-length in last week's Red Bank Handicap.


Belmont Park: Floral Park Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 6 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-4:40 p.m., Central-3:40 p.m., Mountain-2:40 p.m., Pacific-1:40 p.m.; Elmont, N. Y., forecast: Chance of showers, 74¦

1Grecian Lover85979715-1
2Pretty Imposing88378920-1
3Great Intentions7678866-1
4For All We Know8596577-2
5Ever Elusive8480935-2
6Win McCool70859012-1
7Stormy Kiss93103995-1
8Swap Fliparoo88102913-1
9Indian Flare901019512-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Belmont Park: Brooklyn B.C. Handicap
3 and up, 1 1/8 miles

Approximate post: E-5:12 p.m., C-4:12 p.m., M-3:12 p.m., P-2:12 p.m.; Elmont, N. Y., forecast: Chance of showers, 74¦

1Good Reward1061011022-1
2Funny Cide8896939-2
3Awesome Twist9795997-2
4Take the Bluff91979510-1
6We Can Seek10294905-1
7Wanderin Boy981051064-1

Odds by Art Gropper


Woodbine: Woodbine Mile
3 and up, 1 mile, turf

Approximate post: E-5:06 p.m., C-4:06 p.m., M-3:06 p.m., P-2:06 p.m.; Rexdale, Ontario, Canada, forecast: Sunny, 80¦

2Sweet Return9710410112-1
4Shoal Water848710050-1
5Ad Valoremn/an/an/a4-1
6Diamond Green981009715-1
7Remarkable News107991005-2
8Three Valley101941057-2
11Rebel Rebel94104958-1
13Captain Kurt99n/an/a20-1

Track morning line odds