02/27/2003 12:00AM

Play Redattore in Kilroe Mile

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Unfortunately, the match-up that everyone wanted to see between Congaree and Medaglia d'Oro won't take place. But Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap is still a terrific race, as it almost always is. And the Big Cap heads a strong Saturday card at Santa Anita that also includes the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile and the $200,000 San Rafael, which is one of four stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday, the others being the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, Oaklawn's $75,000 Southwest Stakes, and the $75,000 Deputed Testamony for Maryland-breds at Laurel. Throw in the $200,000 Rampart Handicap for fillies and mares at Gulfstream, and there is a lot to command your attention.

Here are three races I'm paying attention to:

Kilroe Mile

In what is easily the best betting race of Saturday's major stakes events, I think Redattore is a strong play. Despite his age of 8, Redattore came back last month in the vintage, Grade 1-winning form of his younger days. Not only did he run away from his field going a mile, the distance of the Kilroe, he did so with a final quarter mile in 22.86 seconds, which is absolutely flying home. Redattore won that race in front-running fashion, but he is equally effective coming from a little off the pace, and that versatility is an asset in a full field like this. And Redattore should be a fair price, what with the presence of Good Journey, who was the best turf miler in this country last year.

One other horse who merits inclusion in exotic wagers if he's the big price he figures to be is Smirk. He was only a handicapper, and not a group stakes horse, in his native England. But, he beat 20 opponents in a prestigious handicap at Goodwood in August. And if you use the rule of thumb of subtracting 14 points from his last Timeform Rating earned, which was 117, to get a rough Beyer equivalent, the result puts him in the ballpark here.

Santa Anita Handicap

With three overwhelming victories in his last three starts, a courageous third at this distance in the 2001 Kentucky Derby to his credit, and with a substantial strategical advantage Saturday as the only class speed in the race, Congaree is a horse I won't even attempt to beat. He should win at an unappealing short price.

The best I can do is come up with a cold exacta of Congaree over Pleasantly Perfect. The battle for second will probably be between Pleasantly Perfect and Milwaukee Brew, just as it was when they both chased Congaree home in the San Antonio on Feb. 2. Milwaukee Brew got second that day, but I think Pleasantly Perfect can turn the tables. Even though both were coming off layoffs when they ran in the San Antonio, I feel Pleasantly Perfect has more upside potential. And perhaps more importantly, I suspect Pleasantly Perfect is less pace-dependent than Milwaukee Brew, who really needs a hot, contested pace to do his best. Even if Trompolino should take the lead early from Congaree, he is so overmatched that the pace in this Big Cap should be neither hot nor contested.

Busher

This race is a matter of picking between the Dutrows. You can go with the Tony Dutrow-trained Elegant Designer, or with the Richard Dutrow Jr.-trained Cyber Secret. I'll go with Tony and worry about Rick beating me, as usual, and pick Elegant Designer.

Elegant Designer is 3 for 3 since moving into Tony Dutrow's barn, and many of the fillies she beat so decisively when she walloped 11 opponents in the Joe O'Farrell Stakes at Calder in November, and when she whipped eight foes in the Great State Challenge Juvenile Fillies at Sam Houston in December, were superior to the ones she faces here.

It is true that Elegant Designer has been away three months and will be going two turns for the first time. But her pedigree suggests the added distance should only help, and when she first won for her present barn, she did so off a layoff.

Elegant Designer won't be a price here. But sometimes you have to take a short price to avoid getting a long face.