11/04/2005 12:00AM

More typical bias makes these tough


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland favored early speed during the 17-day fall meet, as it usually does, but there were two racing days during the last half of the meet that stood out for track bias-oriented bettors.

The first was Oct. 20. It was the most extreme of the speed-favoring days. There were seven races on the main track, six of which were won by the first-call leader. In the one exception, a 15-1 longshot who was second at the first call, 1 1/2 lengths behind the leader, won. The leader, who was also an outsider in the betting at 16-1, finished second and completed a $380.60 exacta.

Tactical speed has been an advantage on the dirt during the first three days of racing at Churchill, through Thursday, but front-runners have not been as effective, with just two wins from 23 starts, an 8-percent win rate. I expect that percentage to at least double, but I don't expect to see many, or perhaps any, days there that are similar to Oct. 20 at Keeneland. With that in mind, it is a good idea to look at a few of the horses who ran well while being hindered by the bias that day.

The trick in this situation is to not limit yourself to habitual closers when possible. There is certainly some value in knowing that they will probably be at less of a disadvantage against a more ordinary bias trend next time, but it would be even better to find one or two who might show at least some tactical speed when they return.

One such example is Bolshoi Ballet, who was third at the first call in each of her last three races before her start at Keeneland on Oct. 20. She displayed far less tactical speed than usual when she was last, 12 lengths behind the leader, at the first call in a seven-furlong, $35,000 claiming race. She rallied to finish second, five lengths behind the winner, and 3 3/4 lengths clear of the third finisher. If she is able to get better early position next time, she will be a threat to beat a comparable group.

Naughty Is closed to finish second in her debut at Churchill in July, then led throughout in a maiden win at Ellis. She returned to closing tactics on Oct. 20 at Keeneland, when she was eighth of 12 early, then gained ground to finish third. Obviously, she has early speed when she is asked to use it. If her connections encourage her to show early or tactical speed next time, she has the ability to contend for the win vs. allowance company.

At the Knees is a 3-year-old colt who made his debut for Dale Romans in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special Oct. 20. Last of eight at the first call, he ran a nice race against the speed bias to finish second, with a 90 Beyer. That performance points him out as a good candidate to win next time. We will have to hope that he shows more tactical speed with experience second time out, or that off-the-pace runners and closers are more effective than usual when he makes his next start.

The other extreme bias day at Keeneland was Oct. 28. There were no front-running winners from eight races on the dirt. Five of those races were won by closers from the rear half of the pack.

China Gold set the pace to the top of the stretch, then faded and finished fifth, beaten by only 2 1/4 lengths, in a $40,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles. She should hold on much better next time. She was claimed from the race, so make sure that she fits versus the opponents she will face if she is stepped up in class in her.

Miner's Meadow is a 2-year-old filly who made her third career start in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special. She set a faster-than-par variant-adjusted pace against the bias, then was worn down by a deep closer who was helped by the bias when he lagged far back in 11th at the first call. Miner's Meadow finished second, beaten only a half-length. A more typical bias would make her hard to handle in her return.

Broken Smile is a 2-year-old filly who won her maiden by 6 1/2 lengths at Mountaineer in her second career start. She was the longest shot on the board in an allowance N2L at Keeneland on Oct. 28. She pressed the pace, then gained a short lead in midstretch. Unfortunately, a couple of off-the-pace runners kicked past her and she finished third, beaten a half-length. She can beat a similar field.