08/16/2007 12:00AM

Look for Clement to ship and win

Email

NEW YORK - Although Saratoga has the Alabama Stakes and Monmouth Park has the Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Stakes on Saturday, Del Mar commands the spotlight for the weekend. Not only does Del Mar have the weekend's biggest race, Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic, it also offers the Del Mar Mile and the Pat O'Brien Handicap on Sunday, as well as Saturday's Del Mar Oaks.

Del Mar Oaks

Trainer Christophe Clement shipped west to win a big one at Del Mar last month with In Summation in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, and he will attempt to do the same Saturday in this spot with Rutherienne. And I'm betting he gets the money. Again.

Rutherienne comes into this on a four-race win streak - one was achieved through a disqualification - and her most recent score in the Lake George, while looking solid on paper, was even more impressive visually. Rutherienne came through a tight opening on the rail in the stretch, opened a clear lead late, and then started waiting on horses, as many turf horses will do. That is why she won by only a neck. But Rutherienne's strong finish into an honest pace was what was so eye-catching, and she is in line to get another solid pace in this event to flatter her big late kick.

Alabama Stakes

The knock I have on Octave and the other fillies in this race coming out of the CCA Oaks is that the CCA Oaks was run in slow time. That might be an indication that those horses aren't quite as effective at this 1 1/4-mile distance. But I know that isn't the case with Panty Raid, who is the play off her strong and comparatively fast victory at this distance on turf last time out in the American Oaks.

Panty Raid rated in close attendance to the early lead in the American Oaks. After Panty Raid took command in the stretch, it looked for a moment like Valbenny, a quality filly, might blow past her. But Panty Raid not only dug in and turned back Valbenny, she was actually going away at the finish. The American Oaks underscored Panty Raid's remarkable versatility, as before that big turf score she won the Black-Eyed Susan on a conventional dirt track, and won on Keeneland's Polytrack. There is no concern about Panty Raid handling the main track at Saratoga. She won her career debut by a city block over the track last summer.

Pacific Classic

Speed has managed to get a lot better going two turns on Del Mar's Polytrack than it was earlier in the meet, when speed was an automatic bet-against. In one of the two-turn races there Wednesday, speed went around the track one-two, and in the other, the first two finishers were running third and second early. And on Monday, one of the two two-turn races on Polytrack was won wire to wire. This will help favored Lava Man, who certainly doesn't need the lead to win, but who does like to operate close to the early lead.

That said, I still prefer fit horses who can close going long on Polytrack. That's what led me to Sun Boat when he upset last month's San Diego Handicap, the local prep for this, and I'm taking him to win right back. Sun Boat boasts a quality recent victory on the Del Mar Polytrack, something no one else in this field can claim (Hello Sunday did win his last, but in slow time). Not only that, but Sun Boat also figures to love stretching out from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/4 miles.

One other to use here in exotics is Arson Squad. Arson Squad will improve off his sixth in the San Diego as that was his first start in 5 1/2 months. Prior wins in the Strub and the Swaps suggest he certainly can be competitive in this field.