08/21/2008 12:00AM

Harlem Rocker figures good enough in Travers

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some horses consistently run similar speed figures, producing their usual races time after time. And then there are horses like Harlem Rocker, whose numbers fluctuate more than a volatile stock market. Beginning with the first of his five races, Harlem Rocker has posted Beyer Speed Figures of 80, 97, 106, 79, and 90.

To put those in perspective, his fastest race - the 106 Beyer he earned in winning the Withers Stakes - is the best speed figure posted by any of the 12 entrants in Saturday's Travers Stakes. But his most-recent figure - a 90 Beyer from winning the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie - is only 10th best in terms of last-race Beyers.

On numbers, he could run first or be a distant also-ran in the Travers. Yet somehow I doubt the latter scenario.

To my eyes, he rates a narrow edge in one of the most contentious Travers Stakes in recent memory.

Harlem Rocker strikes me as a horse who only does what is necessary to win, one who gears himself down when he makes the front, like an Olympic sprinter does in the late stages of a race when assured of qualifying for a final.

That has been evident in at least two of his victories: the Withers and the Prince of Wales. In the former race, he finished powerfully in midstretch to catch J Be K, the King's Bishop morning-line favorite, before coasting to victory in the final furlong. And in the Prince of Wales, he almost seemed to pull himself up at the top of the stretch when moved prematurely to the lead, but once challenged, got back into gear again to pull clear, albeit in slow time.

Knowing this "do only what is necessary" tendency, jockey Eibar Coa will likely ride him more patiently in the Travers, waiting for the stretch to launch a move. And with plenty of targets in the Travers to keep him focused, my belief is we'll see the best from Harlem Rocker on Saturday.

Expect his best to be good enough. This is a horse that despite his figure unpredictability is 4 for 4 on dirt, with his lone loss being a fourth-place finish in the Plate Trial over Woodbine's Polytrack surface.

Swingit figures strong when fresh

Swingit appears poised to receive a perfect trip in Saturday's Ellis Park Turf, catching a field loaded with pace and being favorably drawn in post 3.

A multiple stakes winner, she fits on class and figures - with the one question mark being that she is unraced since winning a money allowance at Churchill Downs on June 22. However, I doubt that short layoff will prove an obstacle for Swingit, who has run some of her better races when fresh.

Over the winter, she won the Furl Sail Stakes at Fair Grounds after over a five-month break. This two-month freshening presents less of a fitness challenge.

To win, she will have to outrun Kiss With a Twist, a legitimately good opponent, but one that is stuck in post 10. And coming off a second in the Modesty Handicap behind eventual Beverly D. runner-up Comminuique, Kiss With a Twist will likely get bet down from her 7-2 morning-line price.

Swingit, listed at 4-1 on the morning line, should offer more value.

Diggy Fresh the pick at a price

Looking at post positions and weight shifts, Saturday's $100,000 World Series of Poker Stakes at Louisiana Downs could not be less favorable for Diggy Fresh.

Entering the race off a head victory in the Aug. 2 Shiskabob Stakes for Louisiana-breds, he drew the outside post in the field of 10 and will have to carry 124 pounds, eight pounds more than he carried in winning the Shiskabob.

Meanwhile, some of his opponents will be tacking less weight, including Autobeacat, who carries 116 pounds, six pounds fewer than he carried when he was second to Diggy Fresh in the Shiskabob.

If Diggy Fresh were the favorite, he might be one to play against, but he is not expected to be the public choice. He is 6-1 on the morning line, a greater price than 5-1 Autobeacat and a significantly better price than 3-1 Wise River, a Kentucky invader who has run better than sixth just once over his last four starts, with that being a second-place finish in a four-horse field.

Provided Diggy Fresh sticks to his morning-line price or something close to it, I'll play him to score a repeat victory, reasoning that he is improving for his new connections - owner Bobby Asaro and trainer Keith Bourgeois - who claimed him in July for $16,000 and one start later won a $100,000 stakes race with him.