11/22/2007 12:00AM

Halo Najib should relish two turns

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - If someone merely watched the stretch run of the one-mile Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 28, chances are Halo Najib would not be viewed as a horse likely to move forward when stretched out to two turns for Saturday's 1o1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.

Third coming into the stretch, he came under heavy pressure to take the lead before growing fatigued and fading to second, beaten a half-length by the hard-charging Court Vision, who goes in Saturday's Remsen at Aqueduct.

Analyze the race beyond the stretch run, though, and it becomes apparent that Halo Najib's performance was really quite good. So good, in fact, that he seems positioned to win the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Bear in mind that Halo Najib was facing challenging circumstances in the Iroquois. Coming off a debut win going 6 1/2 furlongs, he was racing an extra three-sixteenths of a mile in the Iroquois, and competing just 17 days after his initial victory.

He was poised to bounce, yet somehow he didn't. Although Hello Najib did get tired late, he still posted an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, nearly matching the 90 Beyer he earned in scoring by 1 3/4 lengths in his debut. Taking into account that Halo Najib was four wide on the turn, his speed-figure performance was arguably superior to his debut.

What I liked most about his race was not the number he earned. It was what Halo Najib showed in the early stages of the race. Unlike many lightly raced 2-year-olds, he was not over-eager early. He settled into a comfortable pace, placing himself within striking distance of the leaders, but without jockey Mark Guidry having to either ride him or restrain him to maintain that position.

That bodes well for his chances of relaxing heading into his first two-turn assignment in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Drawn in post 3, Halo Najib should be able to work out a favorable stalking trip under Kent Desormeaux. He replaces Guidry, who retired from a successful riding career two weeks ago.

Front-runners Cool Coal Man and Mythical Pegasus should ensure an honest pace, and Halo Najib, with almost four weeks of recovery time coming into this race, should be stronger when it comes time to come after the leaders. He looms a rewarding wager at odds of 3-1 or higher.

Golden Rod: Edge to Sunday Holiday

Desormeaux is also aboard Sunday Holiday, my choice to win the Grade 2 Golden Rod, the co-feature on Saturday's closing-day card at Churchill Downs.

Sunday Holiday, who like Halo Najib is owned by Zayat Stables, appears to have a class edge. Two starts ago, she ran third in the Grade 1 Frizette behind Indian Blessing and Backseat Rhythm - two fillies that returned to finish first and third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Sunday Holiday seemingly did not run as well when third in the Grade 3 Tempted in her most-recent start, though her Beyer of 75 was almost identical to the 76 Beyer she received in the Frizette.

Her trip was less than ideal, however. Nine lengths off the pace after the opening quarter-mile, she advanced prematurely to pull within 2 1/4 lengths of the leader when the pace slowed down the backstretch, and then she stayed even paced on the rail when in a bit tight for some of the stretch run.

Although her last two races came around one turn, she won a two-turn maiden race at the Meadowlands in September, suggesting she should benefit from the opportunity to race two turns in the Golden Rod.

With maiden winner Turn Away likely to draw heavy betting support, Sunday Holiday looks like a solid play at odds of 3-1 or 7-2.

Seaspeak offers value

In the other stakes race on the card, the Grand Canyon at 1 1/16 miles on turf, I will take Seaspeak as a value play.

The task of beating Cherokee Triangle and Old Man Buck, two of the more accomplished 2-year-olds on grass in the country, will prove difficult, just one race after winning his debut at first asking. But his Nov. 3 debut gave every impression that Seaspeak is a horse with stakes potential.

Off about three to four lengths behind the field, he advanced in traffic, and once he swung to the outside for the stretch run, quickly overtook the opposition. In the end, he gained 2 1/2 lengths into a quick closing quarter timed in 23.57 seconds - meaning he ran his final quarter in slightly more than 23 seconds. And he did that with jockey Rene Douglas wrapping up on him late.

Whether he is seasoned enough at this point to beat the likes of Cherokee Triangle and Old Man Buck remains to be seen, but at a square price, it seems a gamble worth taking.