10/08/2008 11:00PM

Low Beyer belies Square Eddie's talent


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is time to clean out the notebook, again. So here goes. . . .

* Visual impressions do not always match the figure, and anyone who watched Square Eddie last weekend at Keeneland may have been puzzled by the number. A 2-year-old making his U.S. debut in the Grade 1 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, Square Eddie romped by 4 3/4 lengths, yet earned only an 87 Beyer Speed Figure. It's okay to believe the number. But bettors must also trust their own eyes. And if Square Eddie runs as well Oct. 25 on Pro-Ride as he ran on Polytrack, he will be hard to beat in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

* Old habits die hard. And synthetic surfaces have forced reconsideration of a once-powerful "bet-against" angle that is losing its effectiveness - one-run sprinters stretching to two turns. The unbalanced styles of closing sprinters once put them at a disadvantage on dirt, where an even-paced style is preferred. Not on synthetic, where closing sprinters frequently stretch out and win. Want examples? Stardom Bound and Saucey Evening, respective winners of the Oak Leaf Stakes and California Cup Juvenile Fillies, were deep-closing sprinters at Del Mar, and big two-turn winners this fall at Santa Anita.

* News that trainer Nick Zito will not ship Commentator to California was not a surprise. Zito has never started a horse in a Breeders' Cup held on the West Coast. Want to bet Zito does not run a horse in the 2009 BC either?

* Curlin is training in California; Big Brown is training in New York. Yet ask many folks about the BC Classic, and the consensus is Big Brown will run, and Curlin will not. It's always easy to find backstretch skeptics. And it makes the between-races workout by Curlin on Monday the most important workout in the history of racing. At least until he works again on Oct. 20.

* For the record: Hawaii Calls, the workmate for Curlin, is an allowance-caliber 4-year-old by Fusaichi Pegasus with 2 wins from 9 starts and a lifetime-high Beyer of 85.

* It's always popular to bash 3-year-olds, including Big Brown. But objective assessment must wait until they face older on a regular basis. Perhaps the Derby field this year was weak, or maybe not. The 2008 field is a combined 14 for 48 since the first Saturday in May; nine different horses have since won graded stakes. Overall, the group has made four starts against older: Big Brown won a $500,000 stakes, Anak Nakal finished second in a Grade 2, Visionaire won a third-level allowance, and Z Humor finished sixth in a Grade 1.

* As for Curlin, his competition the last two starts was none too stellar. The runner-up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was Wanderin Boy, whose last graded win came in May 2007; third-place Merchant Marine has never won a graded stakes. One back in the Woodward, Curlin beat Past the Point, who has never won a graded stakes; Wanderin Boy was third.

* Five months ago Saturday, 20-year-old apprentice Brandon Meier won with the first mount of his career. It was, well, memorable. In the Arlington gate May 11, Houseboat threw up her head and busted Meier in the mouth. "I cracked my top four teeth, leaned over and actually spit out blood and chips of teeth, and then they rang the bell. I was lucky," Meier said. The lanky apprentice moved to California this fall, and is gaining momentum. His win Wednesday on Race Caller Luke was his second from his last four mounts, and pushed his career earnings beyond the million-dollar mark. Meier has won 61 races from 352 mounts overall, and his story is just getting started. Stay tuned.

* Hopeful-Champagne winner Vineyard Haven is the only 2-year-old colt with two Grade 1 wins. But he is done for the year, and can only be named outstanding 2-year-old if the Breeders' Cup Juvenile disintegrates. The inside track is held by Street Hero (Norfolk winner), Midshipman (Del Mar Futurity), and Square Eddie (Lane's End Breeders' Futurity).

* Sign of the times: Wagering handle on the 2008 California Cup last Sunday was $10.5 million, a drop of more than $6 million from the 2007 Cal Cup. Yikes.

* The $12.80 payoff by Guts in a starter handicap Sunday was the highest payoff by an offspring of the sire Unusual Heat, who had three Cal Cup winners from 15 starters. But don't you wish Guts still had his old name? The gelding ran one time as "Nutzapper" before it was changed to a more politically correct name.

* Lady Sprinter, meet Dow Jones. Lady Sprinter is the Group 1 winner who won all eight dirt starts in Argentina, and makes her U.S. debut Oct. 24 in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint. The filly was being shopped around last month for $1 million, but no buyers were found. Trainer Juan Reviriego said this week she is no longer on the market.

* Through Wednesday, Santa Anita favorites had won 29 percent (22 for 75) of Pro-Ride races, and 33 percent (8 for 24) of turf races. Form continues to hold on both surfaces.

* After three ordinary efforts on wet turf in New York, longshot filly Alwajeeha returns to Keeneland on Saturday for the Queen Elizabeth II. Perhaps nine furlongs is too far, but at double-digit odds, Alwajeeha is worth a shot in an extraordinarily competitive turf race. Alwajeeha won at Keeneland in the spring, and figures for a good trip on firm ground.

* Saturday at Santa Anita, Dawn Before Dawn will try to wire the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap at one mile. Turf speed has been holding during this unusually warm fall season, but Dawn Before Dawn still must hold off likely winner Sweeter Still.