07/29/2007 11:00PM

Instant Cup spots may be wrong ones


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N. Y. - Though it might need to be fine-tuned in a couple of areas, the "Win And You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge is at its core a good concept. Granted, one might expect the winners of the four big stakes races Saturday at Saratoga - the Whitney, Diana, Go for Wand, and Alfred G. Vanderbilt - to eventually wind up in the Breeders' Cup anyway. But turning the likelihood of a starting spot into an official one - barring injury, of course - can only increase early interest in the Breeders' Cup among the casual racing public. And that is a good thing.

Yet while all four stakes winners at Saratoga on Saturday were decisive in victory, and are certainly Breeders' Cup-worthy, it is notable that two of them, and perhaps as many as three, might not, for distance reasons, be ideal candidates for the Breeders' Cup races where they now are assured of a start.

Let's begin with Lawyer Ron and his big win in the Whitney. Whether his posted time of 1:46.64 for the

1 1/8 miles - which has been questioned when compared with earlier dirt races on the card - is correct, in the ballpark, or way wrong, there is no question that Lawyer Ron ran far better than he did in his first

22 career starts. Notably, it was the first time he was successful going as far as nine furlongs at a track other than Oaklawn Park, for which he has shown a distinct affinity.

In fact, Lawyer Ron's strong effort almost overshadows the fact that this Whitney was oddly run, with a strange lack of change in running positions. If there was a track bias at Saratoga on Saturday, it was not a speed bias, which would be just the kind of bias that would make for races where positions don't change. If anything, the rail seemed to be the deeper part of the track, and that is the kind of bias that would typically cause a shuffling of the deck when it comes to position changes. While taking nothing away from Lawyer Ron, hardly anyone made moves in the Whitney. Other than Lawyer Ron passing pacesetter Wanderin Boy (who held on for second), Diamond Stripes making a mild move from fifth to finish third, and Papi Chullo backing off from fourth to finish ninth, everyone else came close to finishing where they were racing early. For a race that seemed so highly competitive on paper, the Whitney was a procession.

The funny thing about Lawyer Ron's earning a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic is that up until the Whitney, he was more of a candidate for the new Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. That's why his prior two starts came in the Met Mile and the Salvator Mile. And while he could still run in another Breeders' Cup race, Lawyer Ron would seem to be a virtual lock to run in the Classic if he remains healthy. That, however, doesn't change the fact that despite his win in the Whitney, Lawyer Ron still might be better suited to the Dirt Mile.

These distance implications also come into play with My Typhoon, who by virtue of her victory in the Diana earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and perhaps with Ginger Punch, who isn't even Breeders' Cup-nominated but whose win in the Go For Wand secured a starting spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. (Ginger Punch would have to be supplemented for $180,000.)

The Diana was the first time in four seasons of racing that My Typhoon won a graded stakes going as far as 1 1/8 miles. Although she is in the finest form of her career, My Typhoon still seems ill-suited to the distance of the Filly and Mare Turf, which this year is at 1 3/8 miles. She seems a better fit for the Breeders' Cup Mile, even though she would have to face males.

As for Ginger Punch, although it might be a bit of a stretch, a case could be made that even in the wake of her six-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Go for Wand, she still might be more dangerous in the new seven-furlong Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. No one else in the Go for Wand ran a step, and Ginger Punch did what a good filly should do, and won off. But her Beyer Speed Figure of 99 doesn't compare well with the 104 she earned in her strong score in the seven-furlong First Flight in her prior start. Despite what she did Saturday, it could be too soon to know for sure that Ginger Punch is a true distance filly cut out for the Distaff.

There are still 20 more "Win And You're In" stakes races offering Breeders' Cup berths. It would be an unfortunate development for a good concept if a significant number of these winners were, say, for distance reasons, better suited to Breeders' Cup races other than the ones for which they earned starting spots.

Sunday's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga was not a "Win And You're In" race, but that doesn't mean anything to Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who can be in any Breeders' Cup race he wants to be in. On Sunday, in his first start since getting nailed by Curlin in the Preakness Stakes, Street Sense prevailed over an improving C P West. And while Street Sense's performance was more workmanlike than brilliant, it didn't have to be any more than that. In fact, Street Sense's Jim Dandy was actually an ideal building block for him to be at his peak for the Aug. 25 Travers, in which he will be a handful - regardless of what Curlin does this weekend in the Haskell Invitational.