11/29/2007 1:00AM

Host a strong single to end Calder's pick 4

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Although racing in Florida won't peak for another month or so, when Gulfstream Park begins its winter meet, Saturday's card at Calder Race Course provides a good sampling of what is to come. Four of the day's 12 races are stakes, and they are linked together by a pick four. Race by race, here is how I intend to play the wager.

* Race 8, the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf: This is the most competitive stakes on the card. At least six of the 11 fillies and mares in the field have a realistic chance at victory, and in the end the winner will likely be the one that carves out the best trip.

I will go five deep, using a few of the favorites, but hoping to catch a winner at a price. In post order, I will use La Dolce Vita (No. 2), Redaspen (4), Bayou's Lassie (8), Annabill (10), and J'ray (11).

Of these, five-time stakes winner J'ray is seemingly the best filly, but she is drawn poorly in post 11, and a wide trip is a distinct possibility.

My top choice, and a horse likely to offer more value than J'ray, is Bayou's Lassie. Although narrowly beaten by Annabill in a recent matchup, she now returns to her preferred surface on grass and should move forward.

An honest filly with a versatile running style, expect Bayou's Lassie to get a favorable trip on or near the pace.

* Race 9, the Three Ring Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-old fillies: Indy's Alexandra (1) has not yet faced stakes competition or raced a distance of ground, but the talent she has flashed in her two starts suggests the company and distance of the Three Ring is within her scope.

A two-length winner of her debut Sept. 29, she returned Oct. 28 at Calder against first-level allowance competition and produced an even stronger performance. Under Elvis Trujillo, Indy's Alexandra settled comfortably down the backstretch and quickly left her opposition far behind.

She crossed the wire 13 1/4 lengths in front, posting a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, best in the Three Ring field. Off such a significant forward move, she could prove vulnerable to regression, but her trainer, Marty Wolfson, is excellent at keeping a horse in peak form.

I will use her and Calico Bay (2), an established router who would seem the most likely horse to upset if Indy's Alexandra's inexperience catches up to her in the Three Ring.

* Race 10, the What a Pleasure at 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-olds: Coal Play (5), coming off a quick maiden victory at Belmont Park on Oct.o21 in his second start, has found a favorable spot for his first stakes attempt. The field is relatively unaccomplished. He is drawn outside in post 5, and should be in a perfect position to track what looks like just one speed horse to his inside, the outclassed Honey Honey Honey.

Expect Coal Play to take command midway through the race, and from there he will have to hold off the rally of Check It Twice (3), who earned a race-best 87 Beyer for winning a first-level allowance Nov. 17.

A proven router, Check It Twice has the benefit of two-turn experience, something Coal Play does not. So I will also use him on my pick four ticket, going two deep.

* Race 11, the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf: Counting three also-eligibles, this race drew 15 entries, but from a class and figure perspective Host stands out.

Although he has not won a graded stakes since the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October 2005, Host appears nearly as fast as he was two years ago. He has simply been unlucky to face some of the best turf horses in the country.

His last two starts reflect as much. Two races ago, he ran fifth behind Shakespeare and Kip Deville in the Woodbine Mile, and he returned to again run fifth, this time in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Shakespeare beat Host by merely 3 1/2 lengths in the Woodbine Mile, and Host fell just 2 3/4 lengths short of Kip Deville in the BC Mile. So there is not a lot separating this horse from the better turf milers in the game.

Stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for this turf race should not bother Host in the least. He won this race in late 2004.

Although millionaire Go Between is in sharp form, having won two straight stakes, Host - breaking from the inside post - will be a single on my pick four ticket.

* The ticket: Using the horses outlined above, a $1 pick four of 2, 4, 8, 10, 11 with 1, 2 with 3, 5 with 1 costs $20.