06/22/2005 11:00PM

Mother Goose victim of purse competition

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Round Pond will pass the Mother Goose for a $500,000 purse in the Delaware Oaks.

ELMONT, N.Y. - "Money makes the mare go" is an old racetrack saying. When it comes to the current economic realities of the New York stakes program these days, money makes the mare go somewhere else.

Instead of waiting for next week's Suburban Handicap, Saint Liam, who trains at Aqueduct, went to Churchill Downs for last week's Stephen Foster Handicap because the purse was $828,000. That is $328,000 more than the Suburban purse.

Ashado, winner of last week's Ogden Phipps Handicap, "probably" will run next in the Go for Wand Handicap on the first Sunday at Saratoga, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. But he raised the possibility of opting instead for the Delaware Handicap two weeks earlier. Why not? Ashado, already a champion and a Grade 1 winner in each of the past three years, has long since proven everything a budding broodmare needs to prove. Why run in the Go for Wand for $250,000 when the Delaware Handicap is worth four times as much?

Trainer Bobby Frankel worked Louisiana Derby winner High Limit and Ashland winner Sis City in company the other day.

Don't look for High Limit in the $150,000 Dwyer on July 4, because 13 days later the Leonard Richards at Delaware offers double that amount.

Sis City, who at 3-5 was outdueled in the Kentucky Oaks by Summerly, bypassed a rematch with that rival in Saturday's $300,000 Mother Goose and awaits the $500,000 Delaware Oaks in three weeks.

Round Pond, who upped her record to 4 wins from 5 starts when she won the Acorn, also will wait for the Delaware Oaks.

So this is not the Mother of all Gooses by any stretch of the imagination. By post time the tote board will reflect the wide gap in ability that separates the short field right down the middle: Summerly, Smuggler, and Spun Sugar will flash in blinking lights while vying for favoritism, with Seeking the Ante, Winning Season, and Lady Pegasus (who is iffy to run) going at double-digit odds.

Good luck trying to separate the top three.

Summerly was stretched to two turns for her second career start, a 14-length maiden win, and so, of course, she has been running in two-turn races ever since. How she will adjust to the long run out of the Belmont chute is anyone's guess. One thing seems certain: Summerly has won both starts under jockey Jerry Bailey, including the division's most prestigious race, and was hustled to a clear early lead each time. One of the top position riders of all time, Bailey does not try to fix things that are not broken, so Summerly will be on the lead again.

Smuggler, the field's most lightly raced filly this year with two races under her belt, has a potential advantage over her main rivals: Both of those races were on this track out of the chute. Moreover, they were a major improvement over her promising three-race juvenile campaign, particularly the Acorn effort, which earned her new top pace and final-time figures.

Spun Sugar, though making only her second stakes start, must be respected after winning three in a row by open lengths, at three tracks, while moving up in class and distance. She earned this opportunity after overcoming an exceedingly tough trip in the Black-Eyed Susan when carried way out around the first turn.

Pace analysts will not expect to see any crackling come-home fractions in the Mother Goose:

* Summerly ran hard to turn back Sis City around the far turn of the Oaks, and was then able to widen her lead through a last three-eighths in a pokey 38.70 seconds.

* Smuggler, a bit late changing leads in the stretch while between horses in the Acorn, lost ground through a final quarter of 25.71 seconds.

* Spun Sugar ran her last three-eighths in 39.19 seconds, but on a tiring sloppy track at Pimlico that was enough to blow the Black-Eyed Susan wide open.

As with most short fields when the contenders are readily seen but difficult to separate, betting options for the Mother Goose are very limited. I'll make each of the primary contenders fair odds of 5-2 on my betting line, but it's highly doubtful any of them will be offered in the value range of 7-2, so a win bet seems unlikely. Using all three in multi-race exotics virtually locks up the race, but there's no edge if that's what everyone else is doing, too.

Barring an unlikely blowout win in eye-opening time and manner, the identity of the nation's best 3-year-old filly will still be up for debate after the Mother Goose, and maybe the best one is running somewhere else. Until New York's big-money races of late summer and fall, and with the exception of the 3-year-old males, that holds true for the other divisions as well.