10/05/2005 11:00PM

It's Silver Whistle's turn in Jamaica

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The action is fast and furious at Saratoga, and handicappers who pay attention make the transition into Belmont's fall meet loaded with opinions and impressions.

But a little knowledge gleaned from the summer's racing has been a dangerous thing this autumn, at least for me. With a rainy forecast for Saturday, there are three more handicapping minefields to tiptoe through as best we can.

Jamaica Handicap: One assumes it would take a monsoon to force this race from the inner turf to the main track. It is obviously a competitive race if it remains on grass, but the edge may belong to Silver Whistle even though he lost to several of these horses during the summer.

Circumstances have conspired against him. There was a heavy rain at Colonial Downs prior to the Virginia Derby, and the race unfolded through slow opening fractions of 24.99 and 49.96 seconds. By way of comparison, the next race, also at 1 1/4 miles on the outer turf course, was a maiden race that had fractions of 24.63 and 49.44 seconds. English Channel stalked pacesetter Chattahoochee War and took over from that rival, who held second as Rebel Rebel raced evenly in third throughout. Silver Whistle, making his stakes debut, was seventh in the early going, swung wide, and finished just a half-length behind Rebel Rebel.

Three weeks later, Silver Whistle encountered traffic on the far turn of the Hall of Fame, and finished fastest to lose by a head-bob to T.D. Vance.

Silver Whistle's Beyer Speed Figures have improved with each start on grass, capped by another tough loss in the Saranac at 8-5. Though he was getting six pounds from Jambalaya, Jambalaya had the better trip, stalking the early leader from the two path, while Silver Whistle was caught widest rallying on the far turn.

Frizette: Adieu (83), Catch My Fancy (82), Heckuva Rush (81), and Keeneland Kat (82) are closely matched based on their last-out Beyers, so to begin with, this is a tough race. What makes it tougher is the inherent volatility of 2-year-old form at this time of the year. The Todd Pletcher-trained Adieu beat Folklore fair and square in the Astoria and Spinaway, and was certainly flattered when Folklore returned to win the Matron by 14 lengths. But just because Folklore was able to improve so dramatically has little or no bearing on whether Adieu might be ready to do the same thing on Saturday, particularly with the potential wild card of a wet track.

And by the way, how many of us can boast of consistently going the right way with Pletcher's runners this fall?

Catch My Fancy caught a speed-favoring track to win her debut at Del Mar, earning this group's best Beyer (88), but figures from 5 1/2 furlongs in August do not transfer reliably to a mile in October. Still, she showed another dimension by middle-moving to contention through the second quarter of the restricted Barretts Debutante, as if she might be the real deal.

Heckuva Rush walloped a big group of New Jersey-breds by a country mile first time out at Monmouth Park. She was subsequently purchased by California-based connections that have made a number of shrewd acquisitions in recent seasons, but it remains to be seen how she will class up in this much tougher spot.

Keeneland Kat was visually impressive passing horses at each call to win the Sorority going away, but the effort lost some luster when runner-up Unobstructed View came back and ran a well-beaten third behind Sensation in the Grade 3 Astarita Stakes last week.

Champagne: There are arguments for and against the top three finishers of the Hopeful Stakes as they stretch out to a mile.

First Samurai is unbeaten, having won his first three starts by an average of five lengths. But he lugged in greenly through the stretch in both starts at Saratoga, and can ill afford to continue that habit in one of the definitive tests of the fall.

Henny Hughes was gaining an aura of invincibility after winning his first three starts by nearly 25 lengths, but fell flat in the Hopeful and was hard pressed to get up for second while exhibiting a short stride that suggests he will have a difficult time stretching out.

Too Much Bling was an excellent third in the Hopeful, considering he was coming off a maiden win at Thistledown and was under the gun from the inside post. Despite those obstacles, he set a blistering pace and resisted gamely through deep stretch even though he was leg- weary late.

And then there is the Nick Zito-trained Superfly, whose runner-up finish in a maiden race on Travers Day received a Beyer Figure exactly 1 point lower than First Samurai's Hopeful three races later. Evidently, the raw talent is there, and it is surely worth mentioning that Zito has won four of the Champagne's last seven renewals.