06/23/2006 12:00AM

Note losers who ran against the bias

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LEXINGTON, KY. - Early speed has been dominant on the main track at Churchill in recent days. During the six cards run at Churchill from June 16 through Thursday, five were heavily biased towards early speed, and one strongly favored closers. Remarkably, 15 of 31 races (48 percent) run on the dirt on June 16, 18, 21, and 22 were won by the first-call leader.

The lone exception was an important one - the Stephen Foster card on June 17. None of the eight first-call leaders on the dirt won. Only one winner was as close as second at that point. Just three of the winners were located in the front half of the field in the early going.

The outcome of the Stephen Foster mirrored the track bias trend with 91-1 longshot Seek Gold rallying from last in that nine-horse field to score at $185.40. Second finisher Perfect Drift was also assisted by the bias when he closed from sixth place to complete the $1,040 exacta.

Let's search for a few horses to add to our horses-to-watch list from this card. Mithaal led most of the way and tired late to finish fourth in a $30,000 claiming race in his previous start. He returned in a $10,000 starter allowance on June 17 and showed similar early speed. He led until midstretch, then gave way and finished third, beaten by 1 1/4 lengths. Despite fighting a bias on the Stephen Foster Day card, Mithaal raised his Beyer from 74 to 77. A class dip and a fairer track would give him an edge next time.

Given a speed bias similar to the ones that were typical on most recent days at Churchill, Oonagh Maccool probably would have won the Fleur de Lis Handicap. Unfortunately for her, the clear early lead she held most of the way was more of a disadvantage than an advantage. Happy Ticket wore her down from third in that five-horse field, winning by a head. A fair or speed-biased track would make it worth giving Oonagh Maccool the call in a rematch between those two.

As mentioned earlier, the Stephen Foster was dominated by closers. But one horse with early speed ran a nice race in defeat. Buzzards Bay battled early, was passed by Love of Money, regained the lead, was passed again by Love of Money, moved outside of that rival to rally, then tired late. But he still managed to finish fourth, beaten by two lengths. If the track had not favored closers, Buzzards Bay would have held on better than he did.

Besides these horses that were hindered by the track bias, you should also keep an eye on the on the winners who were assisted by it. Suave was pressed throughout but was still helped by the bias as one of four front-running winners from nine dirt races on June 16. He was all out to prevail by a nose as the 2-5 favorite in the 10th race that day.

Sir Laff Alot was loose on the lead all the way when he was one of five front-running winners from eight main-track races on June 18. He was claimed from the fifth race, and might regress under less favorable pace and bias circumstances next time, especially if he steps up in class.

Four of the seven dirt races on June 22 were won by the first-call leader. Mr. Quigley led all the way and beat $15,000 maiden claimers as the 8-5 favorite in the ninth race. He will have his work cut out if he catches an unbiased or closer-favoring track when he steps up versus winners.