11/14/2008 12:00AM

Moccasin boils down to filly on the improve


LEXINGTON, Ky. - If you already have a strong opinion on the Moccasin, a $100,000 stakes for 2-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on Sunday at Hollywood, please don't let me stop you. Bet early and often, and I wish you good luck. But if you aren't yet married to an opinion, my advice is to study this race carefully, as it is probably a dicier proposition than it seems to be at first glance.

Mi Chiamano Mimi will be well supported, and might crush this field. She pulled away impressively to beat $80,000 maiden claimers by 4 1/2 lengths in her debut, then improved by 26 Beyer Speed Figure points to an even 100 when she won the Anoakia stakes at Santa Anita in 1:07 and change for six furlongs. But she'll probably be overbet, and the possibility of regression must be taken seriously following that huge effort. But if you choose to bet against her, who do you go with?

Palacio de Amor is a tempting option. She beat maiden specials in her second start, then finished second twice behind Stardom Bound in Grade 1 races - the Del Mar Debutante, and the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita. The concern is that she stopped badly and finished last, 20 1/2 lengths behind Stardom Bound, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. If she rebounds she'll be a good alternative to Mi Chiamano Mimi, but a rebound is by no means guaranteed.

Some handicappers will lean toward Moontune Missy. She ran an ordinary race when she finished sixth of 11 at Del Mar in her debut. A couple of months off made a big difference when she chased a hot pace and kicked into the lead and graduated at Santa Anita second time out. But if you are expecting Mi Chiamano Mimi to bounce following a 26-point Beyer raise, you might also be concerned about Moontune Missy's jump from a 62 Beyer to an 89 in her victory, a 27-point spike.

Then again, there are significant differences between them. Moontune Missy's improvement was to a strong but less extreme Beyer level than Mi Chiamano Mimi's - so perhaps Moontune Missy is less likely to regress. Also, Moontune Missy didn't come close to running her true race in her debut, so her improvement in her second start seems more legitimate. Mi Chiamano Mimi fired first time out, then ran a much better race, so she might be more likely to pay a price for her progress.

Casino Gold ran a career-best race when she finished fourth, six lengths behind Mi Chiamano Mimi in the swiftly run Anoakia. Continued progress would make her a legitimate threat to find her way into this exacta.

Will O Way regressed when she stretched out and tired late in the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf, her first race at a route distance. If you rate her on her third-place finish at the Moccasin distance in the Del Mar Debutante, just a neck behind Palacio de Amor, she can make her presence felt in the exotics.

Pasar Silbano deserves a look at what should be an attractive price. She won 4 of 6 career starts in Ireland, including both her races on a synthetic surface. After beating 28 opponents in her last start, she won't be intimidated by the 10 rivals she'll see here.

Evita Argentina was part of a photo finish when she checked in fourth in the Del Mar Debutante, a neck behind Palacio de Amor and a nose behind Will O Way. Montana Fields beat a small, softer field last time, but she can make her presence felt with her best try.

Wynning Ride is eligible to improve with experience following her debut win. It is encouraging to see that Pretty Katherine, who also debuted in that race and finished second, improved by 10 Beyer points second time out. She'll offer some value.

Wind Caper beat maiden specials by a neck at Presque Isle in her debut, but she can move forward with that race under her belt. Malusita will have to show more.

I'll go with Moontune Missy to win, and if Mi Chiamano Mimi is overbet I'll leave her out of the exotics, using Palacio de Amor, Casino Gold, Will O Way, Pasar Silbano, Evita Argentina, Montana Fields, and Wynning Ride.