03/28/2007 11:00PM

Political Force has speed and the rail


NEW YORK - The eyes of the racing world Saturday will be fixed squarely on Dubai, where the Dubai World Cup features a battle between 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor and Discreet Cat, whom American racing fans are also intimately familiar with. On these shores, Saturday's national stakes schedule is dominated by the card at Gulfstream Park, where the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby tops a program that includes four other stakes events.

Skip Away Handicap

A. P. Arrow deserves to be the favorite off his third to Invasor two starts back in the Donn Handicap - he was beaten only two lengths - and his close third most recently in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. That said, there are still a couple of good reasons to try and tip A. P. Arrow over Saturday. For one, he just doesn't win that often. It might turn out that A. P. Arrow is so much the best here that he won't be able to help himself, and actually win. But I have a hard time taking a horse who lacks a winning profile as the favorite. Secondly, there isn't a great deal of speed in this race, which does not flatter A.oP. Arrow's closing style.

I like Political Force to post a mild upset. Political Force was always cut out to be a nice horse, but after a good second to eventual Gradeo1 winner Bluegrass Cat in his final start at 2, he had a brief and forgettable campaign last year at 3. Since returning to action this winter, however, Political Force has done everything right. He won both of his starts at Gulfstream, the most recent an especially strong effort. Political Force has some speed, and he has the rail, which puts him in the position to capitalize on a pace that might not be strong.

Pan American Handicap

Jambalaya responded to a suitable stretch-out to an extended distance last time out to edge a solid field in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf, and another win for him Saturday is certainly within reach. But I simply prefer Hotstufanthensome as a betting option in this event.

Although Hotstufanthensome is comparatively inexperienced at this 1 1/2-mile distance, his win last year in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida Handicap on the Gulfstream turf course, in which he strongly rallied from way back, suggests this trip is within his scope. Of more current interest, Hotstufanthensome beat a pretty good field in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup in his only start this year. In a pair of stakes at Monmouth last summer, he got to within a half-length of Ashkal Way, who went on to win the Grade 1 Citation, and Miesque's Approval, who parlayed his upset victory in the subsequent Breeders' Cup Mile into a turf championship.

Next Move Handicap

The big question is, which Indian Vale will show up? If it's the Indian Vale who was so impressive in November of 2005 that many at that time thought she was the best 3-year-old filly in the nation, then the rest of this field is in deep trouble. But it could be the Indian Vale who was virtually eased in her last appearance 10 months ago. If Indian Vale were to represent betting value in this spot, this question would be especially maddening. But since she figures to be a strong favorite, it's not worth plunging on her to find out.

I'm going with Rahys' Appeal. Three starts back, Rahys' Appeal finished first in the Top Flight Handicap, only to be disqualified for a whip infraction that had no bearing on the outcome. She made her last two starts at Santa Anita, and ran well against good company. She finished second in the San Gorgonio Handicap to Citronnade, who came back to romp in the Santa Ana, and was third in the Santa Maria Handicap. In the Santa Maria, Rahys' Appeal was edged for second by Ermine, who came back to give Balance fits in the Santa Margarita. And Balance might be the best older female in the country right now.