10/20/2004 11:00PM

Handicapping for the time-impaired

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NEW YORK - You could easily spend the next seven days poring over the lifetime past performances of all 101 Breeders' Cup pre-entries and breaking down the charts and watching video replays of all the key prep races. At least that's my plan.

What about those unenlightened souls who don't know the joys of investing 100 hours in handicapping eight horse races and would rather spend about 10 minutes on the entire proposition? Is there a La-Z-Man's way to riches? Probably not, but here's the best 10-minute Breeders' Cup handicapping method I can think of. Call it the Beyer Index System.

The BIS is pretty simple. We take the Beyer Index, which is the average winning Beyer Speed Figure for each of the Breeders' Cup races since the figs were first published in 1990, and we see who in each field has already run that quickly or come very close. For overseas shippers, we use the handy if overly simplistic formula of Timeform-minus-13 equals Beyer.

Here are your possible winners for 2004:

Distaff: The Beyer Index is 108.21. Only Azeri (lifetime top of 112) and Island Fashion (111) have exceeded the Index, while Society Selection just missed with a 107 in the mud.

Juvenile Fillies: The 2-year-old races are probably the worst ones to apply to the BIS because the runners are lightly raced and improving and the winner almost always runs a new top. The Juvenile Fillies index is 95.93, and it takes the Timeform-conversion formula to come up with a single runner with a 95: the maiden Mona Lisa, who earned a Timeform of 108 finishing fourth in the Fillies Mile at Ascot. Of the stateside runners, Sense of Style's 91 and 92 are the only Beyers in the field over an 89.

Mile: The Beyer Index is 111.43, and the only qualifier is Europe's Whipper off his 126 Timeform (113 Beyer equivalent) in Deauville's Jacques le Marois. Coming very close are Honor in War, Nothing to Lose, and Special Ring with 110's and Six Perfections off a 123 Timeform that also translates to a 110.

Sprint: Three horses have exceeded the Beyer Index of 114.14: Cajun Beat (120), Speightstown (117), and Kela (116). My Cousin Matt (114), Midas Eyes (113), and Clock Stopper (113) have come close.

Filly and Mare Turf: With only five runnings, the 108.00 Beyer Index is slightly suspect, but only two fillies have exceeded a 105 and tower over the field on their best days: Ouija Board, who has a pair of 124 Timeforms that translate to 111's, and Wonder Again, who earned a 110 in the Diana.

Juvenile: The three favorites already have exceeded the 98.38 Index: Roman Ruler (106), Afleet Alex (102), and Proud Accolade (100). Sun King (97) is just a point off.

Turf: Only Kitten's Joy, with a 114 and 113 in his last two starts, has topped the Beyer Index of 112.50. Magistretti, Ouija Board, and Powerscourt are just under the cutoff with Beyers or Timeform equivalents of 111.

Classic: With a high Beyer Index of 116.64, only two horses fit the bill for the Classic: Ghostzapper (128) and Pleasantly Perfect (119).

You could do worse for 10 minutes of handicapping. Perhaps what is most surprising about this utterly mechanical system is how closely its selections mirror the likely betting on the Cup races, including all of the morning-line favorites and most of the likely second and third choices.

There could be some value in the handful of the qualifiers and near-misses who will be decent prices. Last year, Cajun Beat ($47.60) brought a near-miss 113 into the Sprint and Pleasantly Perfect ($30.40) was right there on the BIS with a 116 on his Classic r?sum?. This year's qualifying bombers? It's hard to make a case for My Cousin Matt (50-1 on Mike Watchmaker's pre-entry line) in his current form, but Mona Lisa (30-1), Whipper (8-1), Honor in War (50-1), Kela (8-1), and Wonder Again (12-1) could be used at juicy prices.

The obvious flaw in this exercise is that it's not just the 2-year-olds who improve on Breeders' Cup Day. More often than not, Cup winners run a career top in victory. Last year, Cajun Beat jumped from a 113 to a 120 winning the Sprint, and Pleasantly Perfect's 119 was a 14-point improvement in his previous start and 3 better than his previous best. Still, a method that comes up with qualifying winners at 22-1 and 14-1 is worth at least 10 minutes' consideration.