12/23/2003 1:00AM

No standout means big Grand Slam price


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Money is the ultimate motivator. Second must be palm trees and sunshine.

Although none of Calder's four Grand Slamstakes Saturday is offering a purse over $200,000, all are good betting events filled with large fields of closely matched runners. No horse sticks out, which may create some fat payoffs and a potentially large stakes pick four.

Here's a quick look at the four stakes, races 9-12, and what I feel are bettable odds on the chief contenders.

Because my line does not reflect the track takeout, most of these horses will prove to be underlays. The ones whose prices exceed the designated odds will be considered overlays. These I'll support Saturday.

La Prevoyante Handicap

This Grade 2 turf handicap for fillies is a scramble, partly because of the 1 1/2-mile distance. There are so few marathon races for female turf horses in this country that handicapping these races requires guesswork.

All of the logical contenders have holes in their form to some degree. Volga (fair odds: 7-2), winner of the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, is the class of the race but appears most effective at 1 1/4 miles and shorter. She performed well but was beaten as the favorite in her last two 1 1/2-mile races.

Sixty Seconds (9-2) is unbeaten in this country but is unraced since August. And Lady Annaliese (5-1) won a minor stakes at Hollywood for trainer Bobby Frankel but has never been tested in America in a field of this caliber.

Spice Island (8-1) may have the best chance of starting as an overlay, even after having recently defeated Volga at Aqueduct. She has gotten so good so fast that the public may continue to view her form skeptically.

Stage Door Betty Handicap

Since there are few new shooters in this dirt route for fillies, it is primarily a matchup of Calder-based runners.

Splasha (3-1) is a Calder specialist, having won 7 of 12 on the main track there. She rallied for third in the Chaposa Springs, a Grade 3 sprint on Dec. 13, and is now back at her preferred distance of 1 1/16 miles.

Redoubled Miss (7-2) and Cellars Shiraz (4-1) head the opposition. Redoubled Miss has hit the board in 9 of her last 10 starts, and Cellars Shiraz is the richest earner, with a bankroll of over $720,000. Unraced since May, Cellars Shiraz has a potential fitness disadvantage.

W.L. McKnight Handicap

Top to bottom, this is the best race on the card. There are 12 good turf horses in the body of this Grade 2, 1 1/2-mile turf race, plus another two on the also-eligible list.

Balto Star (3-1), a Grade 1 winner on turf, is the one to catch and beat. An earner of over $1.8 million, he faces pace pressure from longshot Gran Cesare, but Gran Cesare does not appear to have enough class to ruin his chances.

Continuously (4-1), who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup by disqualification Nov. 22, and Macaw (4-1), the runner-up to Balto Star in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap, are also horses of a high quality.

The value play could be Rowans Park (10-1), who was third in Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 16. He was sideswiped at the start, fell back to the rear half of the pack, and did not gain racing room until the final furlong in a slow-paced race. He finished with a flourish going 1 1/8 miles, a distance shorter than his best.

Fred W. Hooper Handicap

This Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile dirt stakes completes the stakes pick four.

Aeneas (2-1) has made over $330,000 this year because of skillful placement by trainer Marty Wolfson in rich handicap races across the country. He is a braver horse than his 8-0-4-2 record this year suggests, and he benefits from drawing the fence, where horses have won at a 21-percent clip in main-track routes at Calder.

Aeneas's principal adversaries are a pair of Florida-breds, Best of the Rest (3-1) and The Judge Sez Who (4-1). Best of the Rest won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic in a matchup of Florida-breds and California-breds earlier this year. The Judge Sez Who finished fourth in that same race. Both horses come off useful preps over the Calder surface.

Pick-four strategy: All of the races appear evenly matched, making it challenging to determine a single. My inclination is to single Aeneas in the Fred Hooper, while using the previously mentioned runners in the earlier legs. If one of the price selections strikes in one of the early legs, it could set up a rewarding ticket.