11/15/2007 12:00AM

Hello Sunday a closing threat

EmailNEW YORK - Perhaps because there are a ton of major stakes races during the long Thanksgiving weekend next week, this weekend's stakes schedule is relatively light. The main events Saturday are a trio of Grade 3 races, the Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs, the All American Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, and the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct.

All American Stakes

Buzzards Bay is going to be the favorite here, and if this race were run on conventional dirt, he would be very hard to beat. But this race will be run on Golden Gate's new Tapeta surface. And even though Buzzards Bay won the Grade 2 Californian three starts back and an allowance race at Oak Tree last time out on Cushion Track, I am not convinced he is as effective on synthetic tracks, as neither of those wins was of the same quality as his best efforts on dirt. That doubt, combined with Buzzards Bay's expected low odds, makes me want to beat him with Hello Sunday.

Hello Sunday seems to be a better horse since he moved from turf to synthetic tracks over the summer. He won an allowance race at Del Mar in his first attempt on such a surface, and followed with a third in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. That effort was better than it might look on paper, as Hello Sunday contested the pace, which was certainly not the right running style for that race, and likely not his best running style, either. Even Hello Sunday's sixth in the Grade 1 Goodwood most recently wasn't bad. He was beaten less than five lengths by Tiago and Awesome Gem (who came back to be third in the Breeders' Cup Classic), and his Beyer Figure of 98 was his highest so far. Hello Sunday's ability to close fits well here because the early pace could be strong and contested.

Autumn Stakes

This race will be run on Woodbine's Polytrack. Every horse in this race sports at least one win on a synthetic track. But few in here appear as effective on Polytrack as Eccentric is when he is coming off a turf race. This is the pattern he brings into Saturday's assignment, and it is why he is a solid play.

Eccentric went turf to Polytrack in his second start in this country a little more than a year ago, and upset Keeneland's Grade 3 Fayette Handicap over a stronger group than he faces Saturday. The last time he made such a surface switch was two starts ago in the Durham Cup, a race in which he was an unlucky second. Eccentric's trouble line reads, "Blocked, strong rally." The fact that he gained more than three lengths in the final furlong to lose by only a little more than a length strongly suggests Eccentric would have won with a clean trip.

Stuyvesant Handicap

You could make a case here for Utopia off his fast win last spring in the Westchester, although it is questionable whether he wants to go this far. The New York-breds Naughty New Yorker and Who What Win can be played because they are in good form, and it's not impossible for old Evening Attire to recapture one more moment of glory. But to me, this race boils down to the two who were so tough at Delaware Park over the summer and fall, Barcola and Awfully Smart. And while these two look similar on paper, it is Barcola's better early speed that is the separator.

Barcola's speed was the deciding factor when he and Awfully Smart met in the Carpenter Memorial over the summer. Awfully Smart was the even-money favorite, but Barcola had no trouble outrunning him for the lead. Barcola went on to win, while Awfully Smart seemed to flounder when he had to close. I look for the same pace scenario Saturday, and the same outcome.