10/01/2007 12:00AM

Keep your distance notes

EmailOver the expanded two-day Breeders' Cup event at Monmouth Park later this month, there will be 11 Cup races and six more worth $200,000 to $250,000 apiece. Yet aside from the ultra-high class of the horses we will see in many of these 17 stakes, one of the most intriguing aspects of the action-packed event will be the dramatic impact that the distance factor will play in the handicapping experience. This, despite the fact that Monmouth has only one turf course, cannot run a two-turn race at one mile on the main track, and cannot run a sprint beyond six furlongs.

Those limitations notwithstanding, the 17 stakes over those two BC days will include six turf races - three at one mile, one at 1 1/16 miles, another at 1 3/8, and one at 1 1/2 miles, the $3 million BC Turf. This in addition to five dirt sprints at the six-furlong distance, a two-turn dirt race at a mile and 70 yards, two at 1 1/16 miles, two more at 1 1/8 miles, and the $5 million BC Classic at 1 1/4 miles.

In many of these stakes there will be horses whose distance preferences may not match the race they are in, and there will be some horses where no BC distance really fits what they do best.

To illustrate the importance of this factor - for everyday handicapping as much as for Breeders' Cup handicapping - consider the distance issues facing a handful of talented BC horses who performed in important BC preps on Sept. 29 and 30.

* Discreet Cat: Was a fair third to Fabulous Strike in the six-furlong Vosburgh at Belmont Park in his first start since a dismal performance in the Dubai World Cup on March 31. While this effort may help propel Discreet Cat to better form in his next start, it is unlikely that he will go in the $2 million BC Sprint at the same distance. So said trainer Saeed bin Suroor immediately after the Vosburgh. He said the Dirt Mile, which will actually be contested at a mile and 70 yards, will be better for Discreet Cat because "six furlongs is too short for his best."

The trainer has ample reason to believe this about Discreet Cat. In 2006, when Discreet Cat, a son of Forestry, was a 3-year-old, he won all three of his attempts at one mile, in Dubai and New York, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile over older horses with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 116.

* Unbridled Belle: Scored a hard-fought, narrow victory over her Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Indian Vale in the 1 1/8-mile Beldame, which satisfied Pletcher's belief in her suitability to this specific distance.

Said Pletcher: "I've been convinced that she would be best suited by nine furlongs, even though she won the [10-furlong] Delaware Handicap and lost her only two previous races at a mile and an eighth."

Pletcher's conviction stemmed from the filly's stretch-running wins in two-turn races at slightly shorter routes early in the year and the way she weakened late in the 1 1/4-mile Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 24. Underscoring the validity of Pletcher's intuitive appraisal was the fact that Unbridled Belle's Beldame victory was at the expense of Indian Vale - a winner of all six prior outings at nine furlongs!

Now, a key issue at Monmouth will be which nine-furlong specialist is most likely to reproduce her best form in the 1 1/8-mile $2 million BC Distaff, which will be run around two turns. A two-turn route can be a vastly different race than a one-turn route at the same distance. In defense of Indian Vale, not one of her prior six wins at the nine-furlong distance occurred with a one-turn format.

* Hard Spun: Certainly ranks among the most talented and gamest horses in training, as he showed in the Triple Crown series and more recently with hard-fought victories in the seven-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga and the nine-furlong Kentucky Club Classic over Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense at Turfway Park. So now his connections say that Hard Spun definitely is going in the 1 1/4-mile BC Classic. This even though he likely would be one of the top two favorites in either the Dirt Mile or the Sprint and will only be the fourth, fifth, or sixth betting choice to win the Classic.

Unless Hard Spun projects to be the controlling, relaxed, front-running speed in a paceless Classic, astute players could argue against playing him to win at any price in the 10-furlong race. Sending this colt against horses he was unable to handle at classic distances during the Triple Crown events is a dubious decision that could cost horseplayers a lot of money if they do not heed the increased pressure that is sure to come from start to finish in a truly run Classic. While it is the owner's right to invest his money in a Classic bid, horseplayers would be wise to save some of their betting capital for other horses in the Classic.

* Trippi's Storm: While this son of the sprinter Trippi had earned checks for decent performances in Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes at 10, 11, and 12 furlongs in his last four turf races in New York, he displayed an improved stretch kick when cut back in distance in the Kelso Handicap at Belmont. This victory in the one-mile Kelso was the first for Trippi's Storm since he had won three straight turf races in Florida and New York at 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles earlier this year. Quite obviously, he would be ill suited by the 1 1/2-mile distance of the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf and will rate a puncher's chance to contend in the $2 million BC Mile.

* My Typhoon: This Bill Mott-trained 5-year-old mare has won $1.3 million while showing excellent form at one mile and losing ground grudgingly in all of her races beyond 1 1/16 miles. That even includes her Grade 1 win at nine furlongs in the Diana Handicap this year, when she was clearly empty inside the final 40 yards. It also includes her lone win at 10 furlongs two years ago. At the bottom line, the only Breeders' Cup race that remotely suits this mare's distance limitations is the BC Mile. Unfortunately, My Typhoon would have a tough time matching up against top-flight male milers, including some from Europe. In other words, despite her obvious talent, there is no race My Typhoon should be able to win on the BC menu - strictly because of the distance factor.

While there are many other examples that could be cited to illustrate the sensitivity of the distance factor - including several prominent 2-year-olds who will be question marks in the trio of two-turn BC route races on dirt and turf - horseplayers should keep the distance factor in focus every day at every track in the country.

Pay attention to the distance preferences and limitations you encounter. On BC days and on regular racing dates, it will help you isolate well-placed contenders while providing sound reasons to downgrade or eliminate seemingly fit horses because their connections are pushing them to run too far or too short.

Steve Davidowitz will be at the Woodlands Racetrack in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday, Oct. 6 for a free breakfast/handicapping seminar at 10 a.m. He also will be available from noon to 2 p.m. to sign copies of his 2007 book of essays, anecdotes, and historical rankings, "The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing."