02/05/2004 12:00AM

Hot angle on droppers from statebred ranks


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Regarding horseplayers' never-ending quest for systematized selections that call for little or no judgment, see if you can guess what the accompanying list of inner-track winners at Aqueduct (right) had in common.

At an average mutuel exceeding $27, this group of nine winners, all of them New York-breds, fell through the cracks of most conventional handicapping methods. In fact, their recent running lines, without exception, were downright ugly.

What they did have going for them was one common thread - a drop in class to low-level straight claimers, restricted claimers for non-winners twice lifetime, or maiden claimers.

As I am about to illustrate, these winners were coming off some awful-looking races and for the most part they won convincingly, leading to the clear conclusion that the drop in class was the primary form-swing factor. Judging from the hefty mutuels, the drop from statebred conditions to lower-rung claimers in New York is more powerful than most bettors give credit for, at least in the winter.

A closer look:

Sunsational Julia - Spent most of 2003 at Finger Lakes, winning 3 of 19 starts. Despite a record of 0-0-0 from four previous attempts on the inner track, and coming off sixth- and seventh-place finishes in Finger Lakes' statebred allowances, she dropped in for a $10,000 tag and romped by over six lengths.

Cologny - Lost six starts in N2X statebred allowances by a combined 67 lengths from last July through November, then dropped into a $14,000 claimer and won by eight lengths.

Queen of Saratoga - Returned from a layoff to lose twice against N2X statebreds by 25 lengths in November. Dropped in for $16,000 third time back, and won by two.

Chocomount - Sixth of 12, beaten nearly 15 lengths against statebred maidens second time back from a layoff. Dropped into a bottom-level maiden claimer and won by three lengths to light up the toteboard.

One Momento - His three starts against N1X statebreds found him seventh, fifth and eighth by a combined 51 lengths. Dropped to a $14,000 claimer off a 21-length allowance fiasco two weeks earlier, he was up for a nose decision.

Town Without Pity - The first four races of his career came in statebred maiden company, where he was no closer than fifth and beaten a combined 85 lengths, including a 40-length drubbing first time on the inner track. His second start on the inner track was a drop to $25,000 maiden claiming, and he won by three lengths.

Pumpkin's Glow - Began her career with two sprints against statebred maidens at the turn of the year, finishing about a dozen lengths behind each time. Against $30,000 maiden claimers third time out, she quickly sprinted clear and widened at every call to win by nine.

Charm Cat - Lost his first nine starts, all against statebred maidens, including defeats by 21 and 32 lengths in his last two starts of 2003. Back from a seven-week freshening, and dropped into a $25,000 maiden claimer, he won by a dozen lengths under a hand ride.

Amaretto - Had lost all eight of her starts against N1X allowance statebreds, the last seven by margins ranging from 9 to 15 lengths. Dropped into a $20,000 claimer for nonwinners of two lifetime, she stalked the pace to the quarter pole and edged clear by 3 1/2 lengths.

With an average margin of victory exceeding five lengths, these winners were no accident; for the most part, they dominated off the drop. This seems like an especially potent angle, one to keep in mind before making hasty eliminations in New York's cheaper claimers.