07/31/2009 12:00AM

One heavy favorite solid, but avoid the other


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rachel Alexandra has won seven straight races and is likely to be formidable in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Haskell at Monmouth. Well Armed will be very hard to deny in the Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap at Del Mar if he runs as well as he did in his scintillating Dubai World Cup win. Should handicappers try to beat either one of them, or should they spend their time trying to figure out which horses are going to fill out the exotic slots beneath them?

Trying to predict when Rachel Alexandra is going to run a bad race seems like a very low-percentage proposition. She is undefeated in six races this year, and shows no signs of tailing off. I will key her on top in the Haskell while focusing on the exotics in that race.

If Munnings runs as well going 1 1/8 miles as he did in his seven-furlong races, he will be nearly a lock to participate in the Haskell exacta, and he will have a fighting chance against Rachel Alexandra even if she does run her race. But it is significant that the only bad race Munnings has run was in his lone previous start around two turns, a 10th-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Stretching out to try two turns again following a series of three seven-furlong races could make him vulnerable. And if he does regress, he might finish out of the trifecta as well as the exacta. Munnings is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, and if he can be beaten in multiple exotic slots there will be money to be made on this race. Summer Bird and Papa Clem are the logical alternatives. Atomic Rain might scratch from the race due to a sore foot, but if he doesn't scratch I will include him only for light use on my tickets. I will use Duke of Mischief based on his win at Prairie Meadows last time, and Bunker Hill because he is adding blinkers, and has been training strongly.

Well Armed dominated 13 opponents in a 14-length triumph in the Group 1, $6 million Dubai World Cup. A similar performance would probably yield a similar result.

But there are reasons to consider playing against him. Well Armed was a very good horse when he flew to Dubai. But he wasn't a super horse. Perhaps he simply blossomed in that race. If that's true, he might continue to deliver a series of highly impressive performances. But it's more likely he will bounce due to the stress of the huge race he ran and the long trip home following that race. I will see if I can beat Well Armed at underlaid odds.

Finding the right alternative won't be easy, because the San Diego Handicap will be a wide-open race if Well Armed regresses.

Mast Track finished a solid fourth in a 13-horse field last time in the Hollywood Gold Cup. That was an improved performance, and he has some back class to suggest that continued progress is possible. He is training well, and should be able to take another step forward second time back from a break of nearly three months. I will give him a slight edge as my selection.

Informed finished sixth in the Hollywood Gold Cup, but he deserves respect for his win in the Grade 2 Californian in his previous start.

Song of Navarone wasn't a threat in the Hollywood Gold Cup, but he was a close fourth in the Californian, and he had won four of his previous five races coming into the Californian.

Magnum was the upset winner of the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap five races ago, and he has earned a number of solid Beyers in defeat in his recent races. A return to top form would make him dangerous.

Sangaree, Temple City, Allicansayis Wow, and Kelly Leak all need to improve to capitalize if Well Armed doesn't live up to expectations.