09/30/2004 12:00AM

Love of Money fits perfectly


NEW YORK - Huge is a term that quite nicely sums up Saturday's stakes action, with major events scheduled at tracks from coast to coast, many of them with serious Breeders' Cup implications.

Belmont Park rises above it all with four Grade 1 events worth a total of $3 million. The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup is the richest of the four, followed by the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the Flower Bowl Invitational, which are worth $750,000 each. But, an excellent renewal of the $500,000 Vosburgh takes a back seat to no race anywhere on Saturday.

The first Saturday of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita finds three stakes worth a total of $1.2 million: the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon and the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, worth $500,000 each, and the $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes.

Hoosier Park follows up Friday night's Indiana Oaks with Saturday night's $500,000 Indiana Derby.

Here are three stakes I like, in order of preference:

Jockey Club Gold Cup

A rapidly improving 3-year-old with a big-fig romp last time out is always a dangerous commodity. But when such a horse is also the lone speed and backed by a barn that is batting .430 at the meet, then you really have something to get excited about. This is the scenario in this race concerning Love of Money, and the reason why he is the firm selection.

Love of Money started to turn heads two starts back when he romped in an allowance race at Saratoga. A distant third that day was Primary Suspect, who came back to win like a future major stakes winner, and who will take a world of beating in Saturday's Gallant Bob at Philly Park. Love of Money established himself as a serious horse last time out with an 8 1/2-length humiliation of a solid field in the Pennsylvania Derby, running fast enough to earn a Beyer Figure of 112, which is about as good as any of his opponents have been able to do lately even under optimal circumstances. And the circumstances Saturday, particularly pacewise, are optimal for no one more than Love of Money.

Moreover, this is not the toughest Gold Cup ever. Evening Attire is a solid horse, but despite his win in this race two years ago, he has always been more effective at other tracks. And even though Funny Cide ran one of his best races finishing second to Evening Attire last time out at Saratoga, he simply cannot keep up with Love of Money early.

Indiana Derby

If Sir Shackleton, winner of the West Virginia Derby two starts back, can be forgiven for a dull effort in the surreal conditions of the Travers and be the morning-line favorite here, then why can't Suave also be forgiven for a dull effort in the Travers and be taken here at a much better price?

Suave's two races before the Travers were very comparable to Sir Shackleton's win in West Virginia. Suave dominated the Northern Dancer at Churchill Downs at the distance of this race, then was a game second in the Swaps to Rock Hard Ten, a very talented colt who ran one of his best races that day.

Yellow Ribbon

Light Jig is the legitimate favorite off her win in the Beverly Hills. But with her coming off a July layoff, and with the Breeders' Cup only four weeks away, she may not be wound completely tight.

I'm going with Amorama to prove that her upset in the Del Mar Oaks last time out was no fluke. Not only did Amorama nail an impressive next-out winner of the Pucker Up in Ticker Tape, she did so with a furious finish that saw her complete her final eighth of a mile in just over 11 seconds. That suggests she will relish the added distance that she gets in this spot.