10/16/2003 12:00AM

Private Emblem sitting on win


NEW YORK - Consider Saturday the calm before the Breeders' Cup storm. Although Sunday is a big day at Woodbine, with the $1.5 million Canadian International and the $750,000 E. P. Taylor Stakes, on Saturday, there are only two Grade 3 stakes on the schedule - the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby, and the $100,000 Valley View Stakes at Keeneland. The biggest event on Saturday is New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park, which comprises seven stakes for New York-breds worth a total of $1 million, topped by the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap.

Still, just because Saturday's stakes schedule isn't rife with Grade 1 races with seven-figure purses is not to say there aren't any stakes worth betting. Of course there are, and thanks to the magic of 72-hour entries, I can even throw one of Woodbine's big Sunday races into the mix.

Empire Classic

Well Fancied is going to be the favorite here off blowout victories in his last three starts, the last two over New York-bred stakes company and the most recent at 2-5 off a six-week layoff. But, even after 25 career starts, Well Fancied has never so much as attempted this 1 1/8-mile distance. And with other speed in here to keep him honest early, like Traffic Chief, Gander, and maybe even Acceptable Venture, Well Fancied is the kind of favorite I like taking a shot against.

I'm going with Private Emblem. Private Emblem made his last three starts on turf, and I think he'll be thrilled to get back on dirt Saturday. That is because Private Emblem never performed as well on turf, both from a visual standpoint, and certainly in terms of his Beyer Speed Figures. For example, in some of his earlier efforts this year, Private Emblem was right around the triple-digit Beyer barrier while being competitive with such hard-hitters as Bluesthestandard (a contender in next week's Breeders' Cup Sprint), Bonapaw, and Pie n Burger.

Private Emblem romped the last time he faced New York-breds on dirt, in last year's Albany Handicap at Saratoga, and that was also the last time he was ridden by Jerry Bailey, with whom he is reunited on Saturday. Moreover, Private Emblem's stalking style fits nicely with the anticipated pace scenario.

Sussex Handicap

Political Attack was competitive with much better in his last two starts, and he is the selection in this much softer spot. He was beaten only four lengths last time out in the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, and a little more than four lengths in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga two starts back. His effort in the Fourstardave was particularly commendable as, off a 4 1/2-month layoff, he was in the thick of it to inside the eighth pole before understandably weakening to finish fourth behind the then red-hot Trademark, and that after breaking from a tough outside post.

Political Attack is now primed for a peak performance in his third start back off the layoff while actually facing weaker opposition than he beat in the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream last March.

E.P. Taylor

I like Baie in this race. Baie didn't do a lot of running when she was fourth in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap last month at Belmont in her first start in North America, but the fact that she is first-time Lasix on Sunday suggests she may have had an excuse that we didn't see. Besides, the Garden City was a tough race, as runner up Dimitrova came back to win in a tough field of older horses in the Flower Bowl Invitational.

Baie's last two efforts before leaving her native France were particularly strong. In August, she was second in a Group 3, ahead of Mezzo Soprano, who subsequently won the Group 1 Prix Vermeille and who is a candidate for next week's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. In June, Baie was beaten only two lengths in the French Oaks by the brilliant Nebraska Tornado, and only a neck for third by Musical Chimes. Musical Chimes impressed with a powerful second-place finish in the recent Yellow Ribbon at Oak Tree and is a serious win threat in the Filly and Mare Turf.