05/09/2007 11:00PM

Ramsgate offers upset value


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Peace Chant appears a likely winner of Saturday's Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park by virtually any measure. He has pedigree, being by War Chant out of the champion sprinter Safely Kept. He is fast, having earned Beyer Speed Figures of 103 and 107 in his last two starts, and he has been visually impressive, particularly in winning an allowance at Santa Anita Aprilo13 under little urging from jockey Victor Espinoza.

There is just one problem. He won't offer any value on the tote board.

His strengths are so apparent that he seems destined to start as a short-priced favorite despite leaping into graded company and racing over Hollywood Park's synthetic Cushion Track surface for the first time. Those are reasons enough for me to take a chance to try to beat him.

My value-based choice is Ramsgate, who is perfect in three starts racing over Cushion Track. Seventh most recently when racing over Polytrack in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland on April 14, he should appreciate moving into softer company and returning to a surface he likes.

He did not seem as comfortable over Polytrack. Sandwiched between horses for much of the race, he lacked the explosiveness necessary to quicken with the likes of Silent Name and Lewis Michael in the stretch.

I'm treating the race at Keeneland as a toss-out. Like so many races at Keeneland this spring, the Commonwealth Breeders' Cup unfolded with slow early fractions and a strong late finish, which made it play more like a turf race than a main-track event.

That is not how Ramsgate is most effective. He is best when he stalks fast splits. In that manner he rallied for a third-place finish behind Latent Heat in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 17.

That performance earned him a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, the kind of number he likely needs to run to have a shot of beating Peace Chant, as well as some of the other notable Los Angeles Handicap entrants, such as front-running Sailors Sunset.

Forty Grams the play in Lone Star Derby

Reporting for Duty and Slew's Tizzy are the headliners in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in Texas Saturday. They are legitimate contenders, but I prefer to play Forty Grams.

Although beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Slew's Tizzy in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, he performed well to be third. He relaxed early, something he has not always done in his races, and ran evenly from the final turn through the stretch.

He is back on a traditional dirt track at Lone Star, and I am expecting a forward move. He twice won on dirt at Fair Grounds over the winter, and ran third in both the Southwest and WinStar Derby on dirt tracks preceding the Lexington.

In contrast, Slew's Tizzy is not proven on dirt, having recorded his two wins on Polytrack at Keeneland and Turfway Park.

Reporting for Duty, a stablemate of Forty Grams, is seemingly the one to beat. He was entered in the Kentucky Derby after a runner-up finish behind Cowtown Cat in the Illinois Derby, but was excluded because he lacked sufficient graded earnings to gain entry into an oversubscribed Kentucky Derby field.

Magical Ride bred for turf

The Saturday feature at Churchill Downs is the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the grass, a head-scratching race because only three of the 13 entrants have run on turf.

My selection is one of those untested on grass, Magical Ride. A fast debut winner of a five-furlong dirt race last summer at Belmont, she has the speed to run well at the distance.

She also won over Polytrack last month at Keeneland, hinting she is versatile enough to handle any track surface.

She is bred to be a top filly, being a daughter of Storm Cat out of Victory Ride, who outran Xtra Heat to win the Grade 1 Test Stakes on the Saratoga main track in 2001.

Im Classic Quality could be one of her main adversaries, despite being a maiden. She ran a fast-closing second in her lone race at Keeneland, but is bred for turf. A daughter of Elusive Quality, she is out of Swearingen, a multiple stakes winner on grass.