01/07/2009 12:00AM

Hard to predict Notonthesamepage's 115


PHILADELPHIA - This is a game of curveballs. You just hope there are no curveballs late in a multi-race sequence when you have a potential large score set up perfectly.

"No strangers" was my mantra back when I was an everyday player and the plan was playing out on the track during a race or over a series of races.

There is a time and place for the bizarre, just not when you need the solid 5-2 shot to run to form.

I don't mind seeing a hopeless longshot run his best race in two years, just not while I am involved.

Which brings us to last Saturday's Spectacular Bid Stakes. The race was confusing going in, confusing going out.

Really, how would you evaluate a contender that had ascending Beyer Speed Figures of 84, 79, 79, and 107? Or another that had descending Beyers of 104, 81, and 53?

Most players likely would lean to the horse with the ascending Beyers and ignore the horse that seemed to be getting progressively worse. I can't tell you what I would have done, because I did not look that closely at the race until after it was over.

You Luckie Mann, the 2-year-old colt that earned a 107 Beyer when winning the 5 1/2 furlong Birdonthewire Stakes by 11 lengths on Oct. 18 at Calder, intrigued me. I wanted to see if that was real.

Well, You Luckie Mann, making his first start as a 3-year-old, ran pretty well, actually got a 93 Beyer. And got blown off the track.

Notonthesamepage, the colt with the descending Beyers, had not raced since Oct. 4 at Keeneland when, after setting the early pace at 1 1/16 miles, he finished last behind Square Eddie in the Breeders' Futurity. Well, this time, Notonthesamepage went right to the front and kept on going through fractions of 21.98 seconds, 44.73, and 56.56. The final time of 1:08.48 for six furlongs equated to a 115 Beyer - the highest Beyer Figure ever for a horse at this stage of his career. The margin over second-place You Luckie Mann was 8 1/4 lengths.

This was a curveball. Really, where did that come from? Was it real? Could it happen again?

Yes, it was real. No answers to the other two questions. At least, not yet.

Trainer Wesley Ward said something about throat and bleeding problems compromising the colt's 2-year-old form. That certainly seems like a reasonable explanation, but 115 is 115.

Obviously, this is a talented and very fast colt. Otherwise, there is no way he runs 50 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland when he got that 104 while winning his maiden. He was 1-10 in the Tyro because of that maiden win.

So, what happens next? Well, that is a curveball before the race. You really can't know for sure.

The plan apparently is to stretch Notonthesamepage out in the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth Stakes. There will be some players who will say the colt is a sprinter and won't last the mile of that race. There are others who will say the horse is just fast and wager accordingly.

I don't know which way I would lean. I do know we are probably not getting 9-2 next time. And I also know this: The players bet the name, not the numbers, in the Spectacular Bid.

How else do you explain Silent Valor going favored at 6-5? The colt got an 84 Beyer when eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and an 81 when fifth in the Norfolk.

Those figures were earned going two turns. There was almost no way they were going to be good enough to with the Spectacular Bid, which was a sprint race anyway.

Silent Valor is trained by Todd Pletcher who probably burned more money in 2008 than any trainer in history. Form is often irrelevant with Pletcher. People just bet his horses blindly.

It is not the trainer's fault that so many of his best stakes horses were retired after the 2007 season. The betting public did not seem to notice. They just kept betting Pletcher like he still had all the best horses. He does not, as Silent Valor's fourth-place finish proved.

Do I think Notonthesamepage and You Lucky Mann are going to be lined up in the gate for the Kentucky Derby? Not really.

They both look like sprinters to me, but that doesn't mean I have to be right. It also doesn't mean Notonthesamepage could not get loose on the lead in the Fountain of Youth and run through all the stop signs.

Really, who saw 115 coming before the start of the Spectacular Bid? It was just another curveball.