10/03/2002 11:00PM

Mister Kybelee the upset special

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PHOENIX - Three stakes with Breeders' Cup implications highlight Sunday's card at Santa Anita. But as a player you're not interested in the BC just yet - there are wagers to make and win. So for our wallet's sake let's examine the three races:

Clement Hirsch

Of the trio this race, at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, is probably the best from a wagering standpoint. There appear to be more options than in the other two races, because there are more questions to answer.

Sarafan is the deserving favorite, and it pains me to hear he will not be going on to the BC Mile. Unlike his trainer, Neil Drysdale, who is pointing Sarafan for the 10-furlong Japan Cup, I think Sarafan can be an outstanding miler. A big race here would have sent him to the BC Mile as a great wagering proposition.

But enough about the BC - as far as this race goes Sarafan will be difficult to beat. Still, he doesn't always win when he's favored. For Sarafan, this is a launching pad for the Japan Cup, and with a price of about 2-1 on him, the best wagering option appears to lie elsewhere.

Trainer Julio Canani sends out Mister Kybelee, a European import who was well bet when he made his U.S. debut in the Del Mar Handicap Sept. 1. Mister Kybelee, however, finished sixth, but Canani expects considerable improvement in this race.

"He wasn't eating when he arrived and then he got a bruised foot, so I missed a couple works with him," Canani said. "But I ran him anyway, and he only got beat two lengths [by Delta Form]. Right now he's training good, and I think he's going to run better."

His loss to Delta Form took on added luster when Delta Form came back to be a fine third in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont last Sunday, behind Denon but ahead of multiple Grade 1 winner With Anticipation.

Two other horses of interest in the Hirsch are the Bobby Frankel-trained Skipping, who chased With Anticipation in the Grade 1 Man o' War last month, and the Dick Mandella-trained The Tin Man, who was second to Delta Form in the Del Mar Handicap.

Goodwood Handicap

One of the strangest sights at Del Mar came in the one-mile Del Mar BC Handicap. Congaree, as expected, was on the lead, and I expected the up-and-comer Kela to be just off his hip. But that didn't happen.

Instead, Kela inexplicably fell back to last in the field of six. While Congaree set a decent pace of 45.42, 1:10.25, and 1:23.10, Kela sat a half-dozen or so lengths behind. He launched a strong bid in the lane and finished second to Congaree, beaten a length in 1:35.34 and earning a Beyer of 103.

Such a tactical miscue doesn't figure to occur this time around in the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood. Kela has plenty of speed - he won a mile race in 1:35.80 and won going seven furlongs in 1:21.20. The question is whether he can run this far.

While Momentum is no doubt the horse to beat after strong seconds in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic, Momentum may also be using this as a springboard for the BC Classic. Kela likely has no such aspirations for trainer Eduardo Inda, and that makes this race his Classic.

Pleasantly Perfect, trained by Mandella, is another up-and-comer. He won an optional claimer at Del Mar in dazzling style Aug. 4, then was a good fourth (beaten less than three lengths) in the Pacific Classic. He will not be facing that caliber of athlete this time around, and the way he's progressing could be awfully scary here.

Oak Leaf

As one would expect, if it's a big 2-year-old race out West solving the puzzle begins with assessing the Baffert factor. Bob Baffert sends out likely favorite Composure, a daughter of Belmont winner Touch Gold, who was a dazzling maiden winner at Del Mar Sept. 7. She showed enormous potential in that race and seemingly is putting it all together with experience.

But she is a maiden winner only. Buffythecenterfold was the division leader in the spring and early summer after impressive wins in the Landaluce and Sorrento. The Mel Stute trainee took ill after the Sorrento and missed some time. She tried the Del Mar Debutante but obviously was feeling the effects of her illness and finished seventh. She could bounce back in the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf, though there are distance questions with this daughter of Capote.

It may be another maiden-only winner who could jump up and shine. The Mandella-trained Espy showed promise at Hollywood with a second-place finish in her debut, then stepped forward smartly to graduate with ease at Del Mar Sept. 1. She's bred to relish this trip, being by Mt. Livermore, who sired champion juvenile filly Eliza.

The Beyers earned by Espy (84) and Composure (86) in their maiden wins put them close, but Composure figures 8-5 or so, while Espy may be 7-2. That's the figure I like.