08/25/2004 11:00PM

Hoping bettors dislike Medallist


NEW YORK - The eyes of the racing world Saturday will be focused on Saratoga and its Travers Day program.

The Travers heads a card that includes three other stakes, the most important of which is the Grade 1, $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. The other stakes Saturday at Saratoga are the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap on the turf, and the $75,000 Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

These four stakes comprise a Saratoga pick four with a guaranteed pool of $1 million. Despite a weather forecast that calls for a 40 percent chance of rain, the track could draw more than 60,000, plus tens of thousands of others playing offsite. So, the pick four guarantee figures to be easily surpassed.

Here are my three spotlight stakes, in order of preference:

Fourstardave Handicap

Nothing to Lose has been hanging lately. He was beaten a half-length when second in the San Marcos in his first start this year. He was second again in an allowance at Belmont, third in the United Nations, and a narrowly beaten second in the Bernard Baruch earlier in the Saratoga meet. But, Nothing to Lose is a strong bet to shake his hanging tendencies, and win here.

The reason why Nothing to Lose has been hanging is he has been close early in paceless races, and being close early has taken away from his finishing kick. The striking thing about this race is how much early speed there is. Royal Spy, L'Oiseau d'Argent, Christine's Outlaw, and Royal Regalia are all best when on the early lead, and Union Place likes to be right up there. With so much pace this time, Nothing to Lose can revert to his very successful early 3-year-old form, when he would drop back early and make one big run. If he does that here, he'll get the money.

King's Bishop

Here's hoping a large segment of the betting public gets turned off by Medallist's 16-length loss last time out in the Jim Dandy, because he's in a great spot here to rebound, and is the firm pick.

There are a couple of reasons why Medallist came up empty in the Jim Dandy. That was his first attempt around two turns, and there was concern going in that he wasn't quite ready for that. Perhaps more importantly, and at the risk of invoking the most overused term in racing, Medallist may have bounced off his huge winning performances in the Withers and Dwyer. Not only did Medallist run fast and win by daylight in both of those stakes, but also he did so after setting blazing early fractions.

For Medallist, the cutback to seven furlongs here suits, and the addition of Lasix is noteworthy. Hall-of-Fame trainer Allen Jerkens added Lasix to another one of his 3-year-olds earlier in the Saratoga meet, Society Selection, and she went on to romp in the Grade 1 Test and Grade 1 Alabama.

Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap

Champali is going to be the favorite off his determined score in the Smile Sprint Handicap to make this his fourth straight victory, but I like Coach Jimi Lee to deny him.

Coach Jimi Lee comes into this looking for his third straight win, and a case can be made that his most recent victory, in the Iowa Sprint Handicap, was every bit as good as Champali's Smile score. Coach Jimi Lee topped Champali in terms of Beyer Figures, 112 to 111, while breaking the six-furlong track record at Prairie Meadows. And, Coach Jimi Lee outfought Cat Genius, who in his previous start ran within 1 1/2 lengths of Speightstown in the True North. Speightstown came back to win the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and is considered by many to be the best six-furlong horse in the nation.