06/01/2005 11:00PM

Look for Andujar to hit the board


NEW YORK - With only three graded events on the national stakes schedule - the Grade 1 Acorn, Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap, and Grade 3 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap - you could call Saturday the calm before the Belmont Stakes storm.

Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap

The racing world is still buzzing over how Afleet Alex won the Preakness after nearly falling turning for home, and justifiably so. But Afleet Alex wasn't the only horse to win a stakes race last month despite an impossible trip. In the Hawthorne Handicap, heavily favored Hollywood Story was wiped out and nearly dropped by an opponent who ducked out sharply going into the first turn. Yet she still inhaled her field with a wide rally into the stretch, won by a widening 2 1/2 lengths, and earned the top last-out Beyer Speed Figure in this race.

In light of that remarkable effort, and given Hollywood Story's proven affinity for the main track at Hollywood Park (she has now won 3 graded stakes from 4 career starts over the surface), it is impossible to go against her Saturday, even at a short price. It is situations like these, though, that make horseplayers thankful for exotic wagers.

I like Andujar, who is stepping way up, but was an explosive winner last time out in her first start on dirt, to get a piece of this race. So in trifectas, the play is Hollywood Story over Andujar over Star Parade (a very unlucky loser in the Apple Blossom two starts back) and Alphabet Kisses; and Hollywood Story over Star Parade and Alphabet Kisses over Andujar.

Acorn Stakes

At some point in the future, we may look back on this event and conclude that Splendid Blended was the best filly in this race. After all, she is already a Grade 1 winner, and the only loss on her four-race record was to Sweet Catomine in the Oak Leaf Stakes last fall when Sweet Catomine was at the height of her dominance. When it comes to betting on this race, however, Splendid Blended looks to me like a bet-against. She has not raced in nearly six months, and she is returning against five opponents who all boast sharp recent form. Plus, this will be Splendid Blended's first career start around one turn.

I'm going with Round Pond, who won her last three starts, all at Oaklawn Park, in runaway fashion. In the most recent of those, the Fantasy, Round Pond left R Lady Joy 5 1/2 lengths back in third. Two weeks ago, R Lady Joy flattered the form of the Fantasy when she was a solid second in the Black-Eyed Susan to a very nice prospect in Spun Sugar. Round Pond has worked well for this test and figures to sit a favorable stalking trip.

John W. Rooney Memorial Handicap

If High Court is right, she will be hard to beat. She has been competitive with tougher, graded stakes competition, and her trainer, Michael Matz, is hot at Delaware Park, having won with 5 of his first 12 starters at the meet. But High Court was dismal last time out in the Jenny Wiley without an apparent excuse, and it's tough to take a horse off a poor effort like that, especially when she is the probable favorite.

Conversely, there are no such questions about Humoristic, who is the selection. Humoristic made her first start since November in the Gallorette Handicap on the Preakness undercard and turned in the best race of her career. She was beaten only a length, finishing third to the talented Film Maker after having to angle to the outside in midstretch for racing room. What is particularly intriguing about Humoristic is that the last time she raced in her second start off a layoff, as she is doing Saturday, she turned in the previous best performance of her career, winning a tough allowance race last fall at Aqueduct.


Delaware Park: Johh W. Rooney Mem. Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-3:54 p.m., Central-2:54 p.m., Mountain-1:54 p.m., Pacific-12:54 p.m.; Stanton, De., forecast: Chance of rain, 75 degrees

1Racing Luck88917612-1
5Summer Rainbow8183968-1
6Gingham and Lace8675945-1
7High Court5892963-1
9With Affection88569212-1
10Spring Season7790924-1

Coupled: Omeya and Spring Season; track morning line odds

Belmont Park: Acorn Stakes
Fillies, 3-years-old, 1 mile

Approximate post: E-4:45 p.m., C-4:45 p.m., M-2:45 p.m., P-1:45 p.m.; Elmont, N. Y., forecast: Chance of sprinkles, 72 degrees

1Round Pond9486922-1
2Seek a Star9495986-1
3In the Gold8798845-2
4Seeking the Ante91787720-1
5Splendid Blended9284849-5

Odds by Art Gropper

Hollywood Park: Milady B.C. Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles

Approximate post: E-7:53 p.m., C-6:53 p.m., M-5:53 p.m., P-4:53 p.m.; Inglewood, Ca., forecast: Partly cloudy, 74 degrees

1Star Parade9498603-1
2Santa Candida84n/an/a15-1
3Siphon Honey91959310-1
4House of Fortune8884608-1
5Alphabet Kisses94851036-1
8Hollywood Story9593977-5

Odds by Michael Hammersly