04/12/2006 11:00PM

Let Lawyer Ron anchor your national pick four

Bill Denver/EquiPhotos
Strong Contender, 2 for 2 lifetime, might be too inexperienced to win the Blue Grass.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The first of six NTRA national is scheduled for Saturday, linking the Blue Grass and the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup from Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby and the Instant Racing Breeders' Cup from Oaklawn Park.

It's usually a good idea to play, provided you have at least one or two opinions that don't fall into the MOTO (Master of the Obvious) category. The takeout is spread out over four races, and any kind of marketed exotic wager on a Saturday attracts a lot of weekend warrior type action. Last year, the pool for the corresponding weekend's Premier Pick 4 was a robust $726,194, and the combination of Clock Stopper ($11.60) in the Commonwealth, Diboll Dolly ($15.40) in the Instant Racing, Bandini ($8) in the Blue Grass, and Afleet Alex ($6.80) in the Arkansas Derby returned $2,532 for $2, more than twice the win parlay.

Instant Racing BC: Contested early fractions are expected among Beau Dare, Coronado's Vision, and perhaps Morner, though Morner is drawn outside the other speeds and may opt for a return to stalking tactics.

Following a front-running maiden win on the grass at Arlington Park last August, Beau Dare ran in stakes races on Polytrack, turf, and conventional dirt to close out her season, wiring the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, running off to a long lead and holding for second to the multiple stakes winner J'ray, and weakening to fifth after setting the early pace in the Golden Rod. She has been away, but has a particularly strong workout line for a capable layoff trainer, and has inside position with a short run to the first turn.

Despite breaking from the outside post (8), the late-running Gasia may be the one to get a setup in terms of the pace. Her last-out win was much better than her first start going two turns - an eighth in the Martha Washington - and represented a slight forward move off her top Beyer Speed Figures as a juvenile, which is a desirable pattern.

Using the four mentioned probably gets a ticket through this leg.

Commonwealth BC: The stakes history in the American Racing Manual lists the Beyers for every running since 1991. During that span the typical requirement has been a figure of about 108, so we can safely estimate it will take at least a 105 to get it done.

Seven of the 12 sprinters in the field are fast enough on their best day, but several seem unlikely to fire a peak race in this spot. Sun King has been best at 1 1/8 miles, did not run well at Keeneland last spring, and did not run well last month in a soft renewal of the Gulfstream Park Handicap; Crafty Schemer and Kazoo are grizzled veterans who both ran a lifetime top (107) to win last out, and are likely to regress in a longer sprint; Mister Fotis is venturing outside Florida, picking up weight, and marooned out in post 12.

That leaves Vicarage, Kelly's Landing, and Fifteen Rounds as the ones to have matched par. Hopefully, it's just that simple.

Blue Grass: If you can reach outside the box and find someone to beat the highly publicized colts Bluegrass Cat and First Samurai, payoff potential soars. It may also be worth trying to beat the inexperienced Strong Contender, who has a flashy 2-for-2 record that includes a good-figure allowance win in his only start at 3.

Little Cliff and Sinister Minister have intriguing and realistic possibilities.

Little Cliff is a trainer pattern match to The Cliff's Edge, another Robert LaPenta-owned son of Gulch trained by Nick Zito. Recall that The Cliff's Edge left Florida with Beyers of 88-90 and leapt forward to win the 2004 Blue Grass with a 111. This year's model, Little Cliff, had little chance to make an impact in a slow-paced Tampa Bay Derby, but the late-runner has the rail and the promise of fast fractions up front.

Sinister Minister was purchased after a freakish win against high-priced maiden claimers, comes off an eventful first route experience in the California Derby, and is going to give First Samurai all he wants up front. In fact, he is quick enough to grab the lead despite breaking toward the outside, and how many times at Keeneland have we seen a horse get to the top and just stay there?

A spread ticket would use everyone mentioned, but wiseguys on a budget can try to blow things up with Little Cliff and Sinister Minister.

Arkanas Derby: Lawyer Ron has been untouchable on several different conventional dirt tracks. He is fast, versatile, and appears set for a big race after following his win in the Rebel with two superlative workouts. In a spring when the major Derby hopefuls are all running the way they're supposed to, he is a tough favorite to go against.