10/08/2007 11:00PM

Here's who's looking good

EmailAside from trying to pick winners in the numerous Breeders' Cup prep stakes this fall, it is equally important to analyze those races after the fact for BC horses moving forward in their conditioning. In that regard, here are some of my personal observations regarding several dozen top BC prospects and what to look for during the final two weeks of training.

* $1 million BC Dirt Mile (Mile and 70 yards): Surf Cat looked over the top when he failed to contend in the Oak Tree Mile on the grass at Santa Anita on Oct. 7. He will be worth betting against if he goes in this race and he doesn't fit in the BC Mile on Turf.

Discreet Cat looked as if he badly needed the Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 30, but there are lingering questions as to how much of his true form he can recover in the final two weeks. In the meantime, Gottcha Gold, who beat Lawyer Ron over this track during the summer, has been working forwardly since early September.

* $1 million BC Filly and Mare Sprint: Wild Gams and Sugar Swirl rallied very well on the Keeneland Polytrack to finish one-two in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes on Oct 6. But both will need considerable help with pace pressure if they are going to have any realistic chance to upset speedy Dream Rush. Dream Rush reportedly remains in good health despite not having competed since taking the seven-furlong Test at Saratoga two months ago.

* $1 million BC Juvenile Turf: The Leopard, trained by Todd Pletcher, showed vast improvement in the ungraded Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont on Sept 29. Not only did he score a handy wire-to-wire victory, he polished off the performance with strong finishing fractions as if he was a stretch- runner on the lead rather than a pure speed horse.

Prussian, so impressive winning a maiden route on the grass in his career debut at Saratoga for trainer Bill Mott and so smooth winning a Grade 3 stakes at Woodbine in mid-September, also seems in perfect rhythm to meet the European shippers in this new BC race.

* $2 million BC Juvenile Fillies: The Bob Baffert-trained Indian Blessing controlled the pace winning the one-mile Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 6, while Baffert's other probable starter in this BC race, Cry and Catch Me, was a very game front-running winner of the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita on Sept. 29.

Izarra, second in the Oak Leaf with a strong rally, continues to make excellent progress for trainer Ron McAnally. Ditto for the Bobby Frankel-trained Country Star, who made up three lengths in the final sixteenth to win the Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 5 in her second career start while still a maiden. Several others made bids in all three prep races and will bear watching for this wide-open BC event.

* $2 million BC Juvenile: Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image, the one-two finishers in the Hopeful at Saratoga on Sept. 3, turned in clunkers in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 6. Majestic Warrior, a 2008 Kentucky Derby prospect trained by Mott, was closer to the pace than usual before fading badly; Ready's Image, trained by Todd Pletcher, lost his best stride at the top of the stretch. Both will be worth betting against if they go in the BC.

War Pass, the Champagne winner, remained undefeated in three outings for trainer Nick Zito and would seem ideally bred and beautifully developed for the 1o1/16-mile BC distance.

On the same day at Keeneland, the George Arnold-trained Wicked Style also remained unbeaten in three starts after leading the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity throughout - a difficult feat in two-turn races on Keeneland's Polytrack. Meanwhile, Pletcher's horse The Roundhouse took a step backwards, finishing a dull sixth in that Keeneland race, but the Dick Mandella-trained Dixie Chatter and Eric Guillot's consistent Salute the Sarge continue to move forward after finishing one-two in the Norfolk at Santa Anita on Sept. 30.

* $2 million BC Sprint: Fabulous Strike, a very fast winner of the Vosburgh for trainer Todd Beattie, went back to Penn National to train for this race as the probable favorite.

Off Duty, trained by Kentucky-based Lynn Whiting, won a relatively weak Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6 while the hard-working Teuflesberg was seriously injured leaving the starting gate. A useful sort, Off Duty still will be a longshot in this race on Oct. 27.

Idiot Proof may have won the Ancient Title at Santa Anita on Oct. 7, but second-place finisher Greg's Gold was trapped inside through much of the final three-sixteenths and probably was best. By contrast, Bordonaro, a strong force in this division for two years, looked over the top in the Ancient Title. Meanwhile, several leading BC Sprint contenders, including Smokey Stover, Midnight Lute, and the filly La Traviata, are scheduled for two or three important workouts apiece.

* $2 million BC Mile: Nobiz Like Shobiz took a major step forward for trainer Barclay Tagg while impressively winning the 1 1/8-mile Jamaica on Oct. 6 at Belmont for his third straight on grass. Yet, with several high class Europeans, along with Woodbine Mile winner Shakespeare in the probable field along with at least two of the top three finishers in the Kelso Mile - Trippi's Storm, After Market, and the improving Palace Episode - Nobiz Like Shobiz may skip this race and go instead in the Hollywood Derby in November.

Out of Control rallied well to win the Oak Tree Mile on Oct. 7 and also seems to be moving forward at the right time.

* $2 million BC Distaff: Carl Nafzger's Alabama winner Lady Joanne lost the Spinster Stakes to the Pletcher-trained Panty Raid at Keeneland on Oct. 7 but probably gained conditioning trying to win that nine-furlong-race on the front end. Lady Joanne is on target for this BC race, along with other top 3-year-olds Octave and Lear's Princess, while the older Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale are training forwardly for Pletcher, who may have four in the final field. Pletcher has yet to decide if Panty Raid will run in this race or the Filly and Mare Turf.

* $2 million BC Filly and Mare Turf: The Carla Gaines-trained Nashoba's Key remained undefeated in seven career starts winning the Yellow Ribbon over Citronnade at 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. Depending upon the quality of the European imports and no mishaps in training, Nashoba's Key looms a short priced favorite in this 1 3/8-mile event.

* $3 million BC Turf: Dylan Thomas, supposedly not suited to water-logged turf, nevertheless rallied to win the prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on soft-to-good going at Longchamp on Oct. 7. He now will seek to become the first Arc winner to also win this BC race over seemingly moderate American competition.

English Channel, winner of the Joe Hirsch Invitational at Belmont on Sept. 29 and a winner over Monmouth's turf course, is the most accomplished American threat.

Artiste Royal and The Tin Man - one-two in the Clement Hirsch at Santa Anita on Oct. 6 - are both capable, as is the 3-year-old Shamdinan, winner of the Secretariat at Arlington on Aug. 11. But, all signs say that any legitimate Group 1 types from Europe will be tough to handle as usual.

* $5 million BC Classic: All of the top horses, including 4-year-old Lawyer Ron and the four ultra high class 3-year-olds - Street Sense, Curlin, Any Given Saturday, and Hard Spun - are training forwardly for this terrific event after turning in positive final prep races in New York and Kentucky. While other accomplished stakes winners are sure to be in the field, it seems unlikely that a stranger or a European turf star can defeat all five. Final training moves may indicate which of the big five will hold their form best, or may in fact signal a potential leap forward, just as Invasor hinted prior to beating Bernardini last year.