11/28/2002 12:00AM

Pace setup ideal for Red Bullet


NEW YORK - An important Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend of racing comes to a head Saturday with significant races at Aqueduct, Hollywood Park, and Churchill Downs.

The headline attraction at Aqueduct is the $350,000 Cigar Mile, New York's last Grade 1 race of the year. The main event at Hollywood Park is the $500,000 Citation Handicap on the turf. The focus at Churchill Downs will be on the future, as 2-year-olds contest the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club and the $200,000 Golden Rod for fillies.

But, Aqueduct and Hollywood won't be left out in this regard, either. Supporting the Cigar Mile are two other important late-season stakes for 2-year-olds, the $200,000 Remsen and the $200,000 Demoiselle for fillies. At Hollywood, 2-year-olds will get an opportunity on turf on the Citation undercard in the $200,000 Generous Stakes.

Well, at least that's the plan. Rain is forecast for the Los Angeles area Friday into Saturday, and that puts the status of not only the Generous, but also the Citation up in the air. In fact, the forecast was so foreboding that entries for Saturday's card at Hollywood, which were supposed to be drawn Wednesday, had to be carried over to Thanksgiving Day.

Having learned a lesson last week when Aqueduct's Red Smith Handicap was taken off the turf, I will avoid grass stakes that are under threat of being switched to the main track, and will instead go with these races:

Cigar Mile

With the presence of the speedy Bonapaw, who must go from the 1-hole; Congaree, who seems to have morphed into a need-the-lead type; the stretch-out sprinter Crafty C. T.; and the up-in-class front-runner Resolve, this race figures to be won from off the pace. And, I think Red Bullet is the horse to do it.

I picked against Red Bullet when he returned to action early this month at Delaware Park, but he impressed me that day. Not only did he win with style, he did so off a seven-month layoff at a distance shorter than he prefers while keeping plenty left in the tank for this event, which has been his primary target for quite some time.

It has been a while since Red Bullet upset Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Preakness, but he can still run, as anyone who saw his unlucky loss in this year's Donn Handicap knows. Moreover, on Saturday, he returns to one of his favorite tracks and goes a familiar distance. It was by winning the 2000 Gotham Mile at Aqueduct that Red Bullet first made his name.


Speaking of names, Empire Maker has a big one for a colt who has raced only once. His reputation is based largely on his top connections and impeccable pedigree rather than his lone performance, which, although nice looking on paper, was neither especially fast nor in a particularly strong field. It wouldn't be a surprise if Empire Maker does turn out to be the real deal. But, considering the grounds on which he will be a short price in this spot, he's a bet-against in my book.

Bham may be a little cheap for this spot (he is the only member of this field to have raced for a tag), but I'm still taking a shot with him. He turned it around when blinkers were added three starts back, and has since won twice, and finished a sharp second. Bham's most recent outing was a going-away score at the Remsen's distance over the track, and the lack of other serious speed Saturday suggests he can control the pace just like he did in that victory.

Kentucky Jockey Club

Most Feared is my selection in this spot off a performance that was better than it may look on paper against much tougher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Most Feared raced in striking position into the far turn before winding up sixth. But, he was burdened by an outside post that was a disadvantage considering the short run to the first turn, and his closing style was compromised by a speed-favoring track, so his effort should be moved up a notch or two.

Before the Breeders' Cup, Most Feared won three straight, two of which were around two turns. That point is noteworthy, because in a race Saturday where a lot of his opposition will be looking for oxygen in the final furlong, Most Feared will at least be moving the right direction.