08/11/2005 12:00AM

NTRA Pick 4 hit-able for $36

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NEW YORK - The Arlington Million is one of three Grade 1 races at Arlington Saturday, the others being the $750,000 Beverly D. for fillies and mares, and the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The Beverly D. and the Arlington Million combine with two stakes at Saratoga - the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational and the $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap - to make up Saturday's NTRA Pick 4.

Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap

This sprint kicks off the NTRA Pick 4, and I like Botanical, who has shown dramatic improvement since switching to dirt this year. Botanical was impressive winning his North American debut at Belmont Park, overcoming a troubled start to score with complete authority, and with plenty left in the tank. And even though he didn't beat much in that race, Botanical certainly classes up in this race off his third, beaten a length by the ill-fated Saratoga County, in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen last March.

The best thing about Botanical is he showed at Belmont that he can go early, but he showed in Dubai that he can also rate just off the lead and still be effective. That may prove to be an asset if I'm the Tiger, Smokume, and Pomeroy run debilitating fractions.

If I went two deep in this race, I would add Kelly's Landing, who earned a 112 Beyer Speed Figure in his Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap upset most recently. Kelly's Landing has two sharp recent works over the track and his closing style fits the pace set up.

Beverly D.

This may be the best betting race of the four NTRA Pick 4 races, especially if the public agrees with the morning line and sends Melhor Ainda off as the favorite. Melhor Ainda is a talented 3-year-old filly, but she is in with a very strong group of older females, and I'm skeptical she can handle this big class jump.

Sundrop is my pick. She kept good company in England throughout her career, finishing second in last year's 1000 Guineas, and ahead of the accomplished miler Soviet Song when second in a Group 2 event at York in June. Sundrop is owned by Godolphin Racing, an outfit that certainly knows the kind of filly it takes to win this race considering Godolphin won it last year with Crimson Palace.

For Pick 4 purposes, I'm also including Wend, who has won all five of her starts on turf, and Wonder Again, who narrowly lost to Wend in the New York Handicap last time out. Not only am I playing against Melhor Ainda, I'm also playing against Megahertz. I respect Megahertz, but the two worst races she has run in this country were her only two races outside of Southern California.

Sword Dancer Invitational

I believe Dreadnaught has an excellent chance for an upset this race. Dreadnaught ran as well as anyone in the Bowling Green Handicap last time out, finishing well to be third despite being severely compromised by an extremely slow pace and traffic trouble around the far turn. He is primed for a peak effort third start off the layoff.

Unfortunately, I cannot stand alone with Dreadnaught in the Pick 4. I also would use King's Drama, because he may be unchallenged in front for a very long time.

As for the Arlington Million, the last leg of the NTRA Pick 4, Kitten's Joy is going to be tough to beat as a heavy favorite. The reigning turf champ, he won the Firecracker in his first start this year, and did so by running his last quarter-mile in a ridiculously fast 22 seconds. But in the hopes of getting the drop, I would also throw in the much-improved Fourty Niners Son, who will get a better pace to rally into than he did when second in the Eddie Read most recently.

So, my NTRA Pick 4 ticket is 2x3x3x2, amounting to $36 for a $1 base play.

Saturday

Saratoga: Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap
3 And Up, 6 Furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-4:15 p.m., Central-3:15 p.m., Mountain-2:15 p.m., Pacific-1:15 p.m.; Saratoga Springs, N. Y., forecast: Slight chance of thunderstorms, 88 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Peeping Tom938510010-1
2Botanical102n/an/a2-1
3Voodoo901067210-1
4Pomeroy94100983-1
5Smokume1071081015-2
6I'm the Tiger981071028-1
7Kelly's Landing112100786-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Arlington Park: Beverly D. Stakes
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 3/16 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-4:37 p.m., C-3:37 p.m., M-2:37 p.m., P-1:37 p.m.; Arlington Heights, Il., forecast: Slight chance of thunderstorms, 83 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Sundropn/an/an/a8-1
2Tarfahn/an/an/a15-1
3Miss Terrible92989810-1
4Megahertz1001041017-2
5Mona Lisan/an/an/a10-1
6Wend9997974-1
7Melhor Ainda9997953-1
8Halo Ola92989020-1
9Angara98103938-1
10Wonder Again99981058-1

Track morning line odds

Saratoga: Sword Dancer Invitational
3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-4:57 p.m., C-3:57 p.m., M-2:57 p.m., P-1:57 p.m.; Saratoga Springs, N. Y., forecast: Slight chance of thunderstorms, 88 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Meteor Storm991041018-1
2Vangelis9510010210-1
3Rochester92979630-1
4Relaxed Gesture105105983-1
5Silverfoot10298958-1
6Request for Parole10187978-1
7King's Drama1091001054-1
8Better Talk Now103871035-2
9Dreadnaught1009510112-1

Odds by Art Gropper