08/23/2002 12:00AM

The law of unintended consequences


DEL MAR, Calif. - The idea is theoretically valid - add a "rabbit" to the Pacific Classic field. Attack War Emblem early, soften him up, make him vulnerable. Set up the Pacific Classic to be won by a come-from-behinder.

Sounds like a good idea.

War Emblem is a speedball, a one-dimensional demon with a hostile style. When he is loose on the lead, War Emblem becomes untouchable. It happened in the Illinois Derby, the Kentucky Derby, and the Haskell Invitational. Daylight wins, all three. Easy lead, long gone.

But now War Emblem faces older. He faces better. War Emblem's punching-bag rival Magic Weisner stayed in the East. To win the Pacific Classic, War Emblem must put away real horses. He must put away real speed. Serious speed. Further, War Emblem must shake loose from the most dangerous of front-runners - the rabbit Bosque Redondo apparently is bent on a suicide mission.

Bosque Redondo was a good, sharp horse early this year. He has gone off form, as indicated by his last-place finish three weeks ago. If Bosque Redondo's form was solid, if he entered the Pacific Classic trying to win, the rabbit concept would be moot. The pace would be of less concern. However, Bosque Redondo has tailed off. In his current condition - beaten 22 lengths in the San Diego - he cannot win the Pacific Classic.

All that Bosque Redondo can do now is try to sink War Emblem. Play the spoiler. But in a twist, Bosque Redondo compromises more than one 3-year-old. Bosque Redondo also seals the fate of his entrymate, Came Home. It's true - Came Home cannot win the Pacific Classic if entrymate Bosque Redondo goes on a suicide mission against War Emblem.

This is unusual, because Bosque Redondo is supposed to be Came Home's ally, not his foe. That's the whole idea of a rabbit, to counteract the speed and set it up for a deep-closing stablemate.

However, Came Home is not a closer. He is a top-class 3-year-old who has won 8 of 10 and earned more than $1.2 million, but he cannot finish a two-turn race with legitimate pace. He hasn't been able to yet, and there is no reason why he should now. The pace of the Pacific Classic was always going to be quick. It is faster now with the addition of Bosque Redondo, and his presence can only compromise Came Home.

For a handicapper to attach perceived limitations to a top-class colt such as Came Home on the eve of a big race invites the prospect of parimutuel embarrassment. So be it.

Came Home has shown negligible finishing ability in two-turn races with a fast pace. Make no mistake - he can finish, but only when the pace is slow. He has done it three times. He finished fast in his first try around two turns in March, winning the San Rafael Stakes by three. He finished fast in the Affirmed Handicap in June. He finished fast in the Swaps in July. Both those races at Hollywood Park, and the San Rafael at Santa Anita, were characterized by slower-than-par early fractions.

When a horse goes a half-mile in 47-and-change, he is supposed to finish. But in the two routes in which Came Home faced serious heat, he faded. Both times. He faded in the Santa Anita Derby, which he won. He faded again in the Kentucky Derby, which he lost. Both races had legitimate fractions. In fast-pace races around two turns, Came Home has been unable to cope.

The addition of Bosque Redondo to the Pacific Classic is illogical. He does not help Came Home, not one bit.

Bosque Redondo might harm the chances of one good 3-year-old - War Emblem - in the Pacific Classic.

As for the other good 3-year-old? A kamikaze mission by Bosque Redondo virtually guarantees that his entrymate, Came Home, cannot win the richest race of summer.