07/31/2008 12:00AM

Mitchell's claim sparkling Jewel


NEW YORK - Unlike last week, Saratoga doesn't have a monopoly on all the important stakes racing on Saturday. Mountaineer Racetrack has the richest race of the day with the $750,000 West Virginia Derby, and Del Mar has Zenyatta, the leader of the older female division, seeking to remain undefeated in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap.

Claiming Crown Jewel

This feature of the Claiming Crown program attracted a typically competitive group, with the horse to beat likely being Coyoteshighestcall. Coyoteshighestcall looks like he might be cycling back to the form that enabled him to earn three straight triple-digit Beyer Figures earlier in the year. But I'm looking to beat Coyoteshighestcall because he has been the beaten favorite in his last three starts, the last two against short fields of dubious quality.

Sensational Score looks like a strong play. He has been lights out since being claimed by Mike Mitchell, winning two starts in Southern California in going-away fashion. The optional claiming field Sensational Score crushed most recently at Del Mar was comparable to the group he faces Saturday, his closing style fits the anticipated pace scenario, and he stretches out to the distance at which he recorded his career-best Beyer winning the Pomona Derby two years ago.

West Virginia Derby

This is another very competitive race. I really liked Recapturetheglory last time out in the Northern Dancer because I thought he was the lone speed, but he finished fourth after never really making a serious attempt for the front end. The problem is, the betting public will see Recapturetheglory's big win in the Illinois Derby three starts back, his respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby two starts back after pressing the pace, and that most recently he was up against Pyro, who was a close second in the Jim Dandy last week, and Visionaire, who came back to win at Saratoga. The price just likely won't be there for Recapturetheglory.

Instead, I'm going with Ready Set. After some time off following a troubled trip in the Fountain of Youth early this year, Ready Set has come back an improved performer with a win and two sharp on-the-board finishes. He earned Beyers of 90 or higher each time, each one being a new career top. The closing kick he showed in each outing is a nice match for a race with ample pace up front.

Clement L. Hirsch Handicap

It's probably nuts to go against Zenyatta here. But Zenyatta showed a previously unseen vulnerability last time out when she won the Vanity Handicap. She was hard pressed to beat the tough-trip Tough Tiz's Sis. Perhaps the fact that the Vanity was a weirdly run race - Silver Z ran off to a double-digit lead down the backstretch - had something to do with it. But Silver Z is back again.

West Coast Swing is a playable alternative to Zenyatta. West Coast Swing showed a lot of potential last year when she won the first three starts of her career, including a decisive victory over a very good field in the Prairie Meadows Oaks at this 1 1/16-mile distance. West Coast Swing was a runaway winner at Churchill Downs in her only start this year, and has strong license to improve considerably off that effort, not only because it was her first start in eight months, but also because as a lightly raced filly who has started only five times, she has plenty of room for more overall development.