11/22/2002 12:00AM

Lido Palace still good enough to win Clark


PHOENIX - The long holiday weekend features some of the best racing - and best handicapping opportunities - of the year. Who says the season ends with the Breeders' Cup?

Here's an early look at this week's races:

Clark Handicap (Friday, Churchill Downs): This is a thoroughly bettable and competitive affair, with your stance likely reflecting your opinion of Lido Palace. A multiple Grade 1 stakes winner, he seemed to tail off in the summer - if you can call winning the Grade 1 Woodward tailing off. His connections opted against supplementing him to the BC Classic, which almost surely was a good move.

Lido Palace won an allowance race at Belmont in preparation for the Clark, and if the real Lido Palace shows up Friday, the rest are running for second. The price figures to be there, because Evening Attire, Tenpins, and Perfect Drift come with loaded bandwagons.

Lido Palace's trainer, Bobby Frankel, is closing in on D. Wayne Lukas's earnings record for a year. Frankel has said he's pointing Lido Palace for a run at the Dubai World Cup in the spring, and would he outline such a plan if Lido Palace weren't doing well? Anything in the area of 7-2 sounds decent.

Cigar Mile (Saturday, Aqueduct): I can see it already. Speedsters Bonapaw and Congaree go fast early, real fast. After all, that's what they do. But they'll be doing it together, and Crafty C.T. doesn't figure too far behind them.

Then comes the real heat, likely in the form of 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet. After many months off he returned with a strong sprint win at Delaware. Sprinting is not his game, but it should set him up perfectly for a big effort here, and with contention running so deep Red Bullet figures to go off somewhere around 5-1.

Of course, after he makes his move he has to survive the almost certain onslaught to come from Aldebaran, Met Mile runner-up, who can be a sledgehammer in the lane. At the finish it could be Red Bullet holding off Aldebaran with Crafty C.T., who takes the lead turning for home as Congaree and Bonapaw tire, staying on well to keep third.

Demoiselle (Saturday, Aqueduct): She may not be able to handle Storm Flag Flying (who can?), but Fircroft came back after losing twice to the Breeders' Cup Juevenile Fillies winner and won the off-the-turf Miss Grillo, which was run at the Demoiselle distance of 1 1/8 miles. With the big girls either on the shelf or eyeing other races, Fircroft may have a talent and seasoning edge over the likes of promising fillies such as Feisty Step and Summer Scene.

Summer Scene, a recent Frankel acquisition, comes well regarded and figures to attract some serious money. So despite Fircroft's last win and proven class her price still figures appealing, likely in the 4-1 range.

Remsen (Saturday, Aqueduct): So do you believe the hype? Frankel's Empire Maker, kin to Chester House, Honest Lady, and Decarchy, dazzled in his debut and reportedly has Frankel thinking Derby. The way he won his maiden indicates he has a ton of ability, and he had better.

Toccet, the Champagne winner, bounced back from his dismal BC Juvenile try with a laughingly easy win in the Laurel Futurity and may run in the Remsen. But the spoiler may well be Soto. Trained by Michael Dickinson, Soto has shown a huge amount of promise. He was to run in the Laurel Futurity, but scratched when the rains came. As with Empire Maker, there's no telling how good Soto may be, but with Empire Maker around

8-5, Toccet around 5-2, and Soto in the 6-1 range, I know which way I'm going to look.

Citation Handicap (Saturday, Hollywood): Trainer Wally Dollase was right. Good Journey is good, indeed. He did everything right finishing third in the BC Mile, but he couldn't handle two European monsters. Dollase said Good Journey has been doing great since the BC, and his light schedule this year means he should still be fairly fresh and ready to defend his title in the Citation.

One horse of interest is Night Patrol. He won the Oak Tree BC Mile at Santa Anita but has always done his best work on this course. He also figures to enjoy the extra half-furlong he gets in the 1 1/16-mile Citation. Toughies like Forbidden Apple, White Heart, and Decarchy also are expected, and they will keep the price palatable on Good Journey (5-2) and more than handsome on Night Patrol (around 8-1).