08/23/2007 12:00AM

Hard to deny the class in King's Bishop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In contrast to Street Sense in the Travers, Hard Spun is not widely considered to be a slam dunk in Saturday's seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes on the Travers undercard at Saratoga. Racing in a sprint for the first time all year, he will likely encounter a faster pace than he has grown accustomed to.

For that reason some handicappers will try to beat him, taking a shot against the tepid 3-1 morning-line favorite.

I won't be one of them. Although a typical horse might be vulnerable racing in a sprint after seven straight races, Hard Spun is not a typical horse. He is a classy colt, clearly one of the top four or five 3-year-olds in the country.

Hard Spun ran well in the Triple Crown - running second in the Derby and third in the Preakness - not because he was a horse crying out for distance. He did well there because of his speed and ability.

Running seven furlongs in the King's Bishop - against horses of lesser quality than those he faced in the Triple Crown and Haskell - should not pose that big a hurdle for him.

Instead of racing against Curlin, Street Sense, and Any Given Saturday, he is facing the likes of Teuflesberg and Most Distinguished. That is really all that needs to be said.

If he stays anywhere near his 3-1 morning-line price, he is an overlay. Even if he drops to 5-2 or 2-1, he is a good single to use in the pick four on Saturday.

The pick four key

Speaking of the pick four - which offers guaranteed pool of $1 million Saturday - here is how I plan to play the other legs of the wager.

Beginning with the seventh race, the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch, I will go two deep, using Shakis (No. 1) and Cosmonaut (6).

Shakis, a close third in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June at Belmont, should benefit from being cut back in distance from the 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green Handicap to the 1 1/8-mile Bernard Baruch. His best game appears to be racing between a mile and 1 1/4 miles.

He has other factors in his favor. He is drawn well in post 1, and he benefits from getting a break in the weights. He will cary just 116 pounds, in contrast to the 122 that Cosmonaut will shoulder.

Despite carrying 122 pounds, Cosmonaut commands respect and will join Shakis on my pick four ticket. A versatile horse, he can stalk the pace or run on the lead, as he did in winning his last race, the July 21 Arlington Handicap.

He is remarkably consistent from a Beyer Speed Figure perspective, having earned figures of 100 or higher in nine of his last 10 starts.

Following the Bernard Baruch, the King's Bishop is next, and Hard Spun (3) will be my single.

The big race of the day, the Travers, then follows as race 9 on the card. Obviously, Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense (4) is a must use. He appears too classy for the opposition, and barring an uncharacteristically dull effort, seems too good for his six opponents to handle.

That noted, he is 3-5 on the morning line. So simply from a value perspective, I can't help also tossing 5-1 shot C P West (2) on my tickets.

With the Travers lacking pace, C P West is in a perfect position to set moderate to slow fractions. With the riders of the other horses obviously worried about Street Sense coming at the end, I doubt they will be in any hurry to pressure C P West early and take something away from their mounts for when Street Sense comes to challenge.

The pick four concludes with the Victory Ride Stakes, a race that appears highly competitive. Unbeaten La Traviata (8) has been brilliant in winning her two starts and is the most likely winner, but since she is so inexperienced I am inclined to go four deep.

Also included on my pick four ticket will be Appealing Zophie (1), who after disappointing in her last three starts could rebound over the track in which she won the Grade 1 Spinaway last summer; Graeme Six (4), the runner-up in the Grade 1 Prioress July 7; and Allude (6), who ran a close second to Featherbed in the Weekend Surprise Stakes Aug. 6 after stumbling at the start.

* The ticket: Using the horses outlined above, a $1 pick four ticket of 1,6 with 3 with 4,2 with 8,1,4,6 costs $16.