11/09/2006 1:00AM

Naughty Rafaela's revenge at hand


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The question will be answered on the track. Which Brazilian import is better - Nakaba or Naughty Rafaela? They meet for the fourth time Saturday at Hollywood Park in the $60,000 Hermosa Beach Handicap, and if Naughty Rafaela gets a better trip than her last start she should turn the tables in the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

Nakaba holds a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head competition that began in South America, but Naughty Rafaela encountered several lengths of trouble when both fillies made their U.S. debut at Santa Anita on Oct. 12. Naughty Rafaela steadied in traffic and lost momentum on the far turn, steadied again when blocked in deep stretch, and finished full of run. Nakaba won, but Naughty Rafaela was best.

Naughty Rafaela should prove it Saturday on the track, which is how it should be.

Many questions also were expected to be answered last Saturday in the Breeders' Cup. But as usual, racing's so-called championship day presented a variety of unresolved issues. It is fodder for winter, and sets the stage for an interesting 2007.

Below are scattered opinions; there is room to disagree on just about everything.

* Though the rail bias flattered Dreaming of Anna, slow pace was the main contributing factor in the Juvenile Fillies. Dreaming of Anna was handed the race when Cash Included broke flat-footed, and other front-runners were rated. She won by only 1 1/2 lengths with a 90 Beyer, which is the third-lowest since 1990. Folklore earned an 87 last year; Pleasant Stage earned an 85 in 1991. Neither filly won again. Question is, will Dreaming of Anna? Under the advantageous circumstances, a more emphatic win might have been expected.

* Quick, can you name the country's best 2-year-old? Street Sense will get the votes, but the Juvenile was void of at least one potential superstar. With only two starts, Nobiz Like Shobiz remains unseasoned, but he will be waiting next year. So will California-based Notional, maybe. Notional does not have a published work since earning a 105 Beyer in a debut romp way back on Oct. 21. Nobiz Like Shobiz runs Nov. 25 at Aqueduct in the Grade 2 Remsen.

* Trevor Denman has been the magnificent voice of Southern California racing for nearly 25 years, but he was not at his best Saturday. Calling the Breeders' Cup in replacement of Tom Durkin, Denman missed the winning moves by Secret Sense and Round Pound (both rallied inside), overstated the "rally" of hanger Balletto, and did not mention the breakdown of Pine Island. The calls also sounded flat. California fans know that Denman, one of the all-time announcing greats, is better than he was on Saturday.

* The new Polytrack at Keeneland produced the one-two-three finishers of the Juvenile. Good for Keeneland. Out in California, the new Cushion Track at Hollywood Park has produced nothing but short fields. Through six days of autumn racing at Hollywood, the average Cushion Track field size was less than 8.1 starters. Horsemen continue to praise Cushion Track. It is a great surface on which to train. Now if more horses would only race on it.

* It would have been a fine rivalry between potentially great 3-year-olds, but Bernardini can never prove he was best because he already has retired. Thankfully, the country's two best 3-year-olds - Showing Up and Discreet Cat - will continue to race. Six for eight in his career and a graded stakes winner on dirt and turf, Showing Up runs Nov. 26 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. Unbeaten Discreet Cat runs Nov. 25 in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

* Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Thor's Echo and BC Mile runner-up Aragorn salvaged the day for California, but parimutuel expectations for West Coast shippers were low going in. Eight prep races were held during the fall Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita - one for each BC race - and none of the seven prep winners that shipped to Kentucky was favored. Bettors are catching on.

* Say what you will about Henny Hughes, but the worst (most vulnerable) favorite had to be Hurricane Run in the Turf. He was making his third start in five weeks, ran below par his last two starts overseas, yet started at 5-2. Hurricane Run finished eighth.

* The 2006 Breeders' Cup was perhaps the final curtain call for two aged angles, including the shotgun system of betting every horse and relying on chaos. It would have cost $208 to back every horse ($2 win) this year; the total return was $197. A second handicapping angle was to only back horses that won their debut, no matter how long ago. The only two Breeders' Cup winners this year that qualified were Dreaming of Anna and Invasor.

* Write down this date - Oct. 27, 2007. The 24th annual Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park.