04/19/2012 4:45PM

King: Hammers Terror fits the bill in Lexington

Lou Hodges Jr.
Hammers Terror has won over Keeneland’s Polytrack, and has also won around two turns.

When it comes to handicapping Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes, accepted handicapping criteria such as speed, class, and form are trumped by interpreting who will like the Polytrack surface at Keeneland. Its synthetic nature makes it very much of a third surface – not turf, and not dirt. And though there is a correlation between turf success and synthetic skill to some extent, blanket generalizations that all horses will transfer their form from grass to Poly isn’t a profitable angle.

Some horses are just as capable on Poly as on turf, but there are also plenty of others who are not. Similarly, some dirt horses handle the synthetic, even though they might not lift their feet on the grass.

So my basis for betting the Lexington is simple: Give me proven horse, the one with a win over the specific Polytrack at Keeneland.

There’s only one such horse in the Lexington: longshot Hammers Terror. And though his 30-1 morning line seems overly generous, it is realistic to think he could still start at appealing odds of 15-1 or 20-1 at post time.

Besides having won at Keeneland, doing so in his second career start last year at age 2, he has other factors in his favor. He is proven around two turns, having won an allowance at Fair Grounds, and he comes off a wide third in the surprisingly fast Black Gold Stakes in New Orleans.

In that race, it should be noted, he crossed the wire just a couple of lengths behind Hero of Order, who subsequently pulled off a stunning upset in the Louisiana Derby.

Those considerations aside, he also looks poised to get a favorable stalking trip behind what should be a fast pace. He ought to be able to track the leaders, and if they weaken from hot splits, get the jump on the closers in the field.

At a big price, he’s a gamble worth taking.

Giant's Causeway Stakes

A race earlier on the card in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, Wild About Marie is another stakes overlay as a 6-1 morning-line play.

A short-distance turf specialist, she hasn’t raced since finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind race favorite Inspired when second in the Pan Zareta Stakes at Fair Grounds Jan. 21. By no means was it a poor race – she simply couldn’t catch loose-on-the-lead Inspired.

Normally, backing a horse off a three-month layoff is a dangerous proposition, but her case is unique. Her time away has seemingly been more of the result of circumstances than health issues.

After the Pan Zareta, there wasn’t another sprint stakes for her until the March 24 Happy Ticket Stakes at Fair Grounds, and that race ended up getting rained off the turf and moved to the main track.

Not being a dirt horse, her connections scratched and chose instead to wait for this race.

Throw in that she’s already won at Keeneland, taking the Buffalo Trace Franklin County over this course last fall when returning from a layoff, and she takes on even more appeal.

Drawn in post 2, she might be able to save ground with her usual midpack closing rally, too. The only filly to her inside, Speedacious, is a front-runner, and she may be able to follow her, saving valuable ground in the early going.

Wild About Marie, like Hammers Terror, is not a high-percentage winner. But she does have a better chance than her morning lines might suggest.

Sixty Sails

Sticking with another price play, I’ll close out my stakes plays for Saturday with 5-1 shot She’s All In, who faces a contentious and quality-laden field in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne.

Though winless in three starts this year, she is sharp, judging by recent on-the-board stakes performances against the likes of Absinthe Minded and Tiz Miz Sue, the top two Oaklawn-based older fillies to race there this winter.

She ran third behind the two in both the Pippin and Bayakoa, and then second to Tiz Miz Sue in the Grade 3 Azeri, the final Oaklawn prep before the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

Toss her failures on synthetic surfaces, over which she is winless in three starts, and this filly has a record of 10 wins from 19 starts on turf and dirt, with 5 runner-up finishes and 2 thirds.

She also has a versatile running style that allows her regular jockey, Luis Quinonez to place her where ever he sees fit, based on how the pace unfolds.

With plenty of speed in the Sixty Sails, anticipate her playing the role of a stalker, likely sitting 2 to 3 lengths off the early leaders.