10/26/2006 11:00PM

Reverse psychology on Polytrack stars


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A few thoughts from Churchill Downs with about a week remaining until the Breeders Cup . . .

It seems few people are respecting form established racing over Polytrack at Keeneland this fall. Oh, bettors are willing to forgive losses over it - such as Happy Ticket's troubled sixth-place finish in the Distaff - but I get the feeling that people don't want to believe the winners and other top finishers are legitimate.

Although I, too, wonder how form will hold up over a conventional dirt track like Churchill, I'm beginning to think that there might be some value on horses coming off victories over it, simply because no one else seems to be in their corner

My guess is that Asi Siempre will be regarded in the Distaff by the betting public as simply a turf horse that handled Polytrack; and Great Hunter and Bel Air Beauty, the winners of the Breeders' Futurity and Alcibiades, respectively, may similarly have their share of doubters in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.

Kelly's Landing, the Phoenix Stakes winner, might not be dismissed to such a high degree in the Sprint because he is already a proven commodity over the Churchill strip. He owns the track record at Churchill for six furlongs.

Usually, horses coming off victories are bet down next out, but I'm not so sure that will be the case with the aforementioned group, and others coming off scores over Polytrack.

The pace could have been hotter

Cash Included and Dreaming of Anna, who already a week ago looked like legitimate favorites in the Juvenile Fillies, seem even more solid right now. That is because the Breeders' Cup Selection Committee placed front-runners such as Lilly Carson, Cohiba Miss, and Mistical Plan on the alternate list.

That is not to say that Cash Included or Dreaming of Anna, who race on or near the pace, will steal the race. Hardly. The presence of the speedy Appealing Zophie makes that unlikely. But the pace of the Juvenile Fillies doesn't look like it is going to be quite as hot as it seemed before the committee's choices were announced.

Play the (free) BC Fantasy Challenge

Fans of fantasy sports should consider participating in this year's Breeders' Cup Fantasy Challenge, a free contest in which players draft a stable of 16 horses, three jockeys, and five trainers that are participating in the eight Breeders' Cup races. Points are accumulated using a scoring system that is outlined on the game's website at bcfc.churchilldowns.com.

Top prize, valued at $5,000, is a trip for two to the 2007 Breeders' Cup, which includes tickets, airfare, accommodations, and a $500 wagering voucher. Consolation prizes range from $750 to $250.

The contest opens for entries Wednesday afternoon, shortly after post positions are drawn.

Early betting lines available overseas

If you want to see how overseas bettors are viewing the Breeders' Cup races, surf the net and go to www.irish-racing.com. Listed at the bottom of the homepage, is a link that lists betting lines that overseas bookmakers have established for the Breeders' Cup races.

As of Friday afternoon, Bernadini was odds of around 2-1 with numerous bookmakers to win the Classic. Some of the prices available look generous - such as Dreaming of Anna at 6-1 to win the Juvenile Fillies with a couple bookies - but others look like terrible plays.

Adoradora, for example, the 10th alternate in the Juvenile Fillies, had prices ranging from 15-1 to 67-1 with three bookies on Friday. I wouldn't take 200-1 for her to get in the field, much less get in and win the race.

The betting lines that are particularly noteworthy are on the Breeders' Cup races involving Europeans in that they tell you what overseas betters think of their horse's prospects. In the Turf, for example, Hurricane Run is easily the most fancied of the overseas invaders. He is favorite or second betting choice with all the bookies, hovering around 4-1, which is about the price they are listing on the U.S.-based English Channel.

I think it is good idea to print out those prices when the big day approaches and compare them relative to the odds at Churchill to search for overlays. Keep in mind that overseas bettors tend to be biased toward their own horses, just as bettors in the United States often favor horses in the Breeders' Cup that have been running in their regions. Demand more value from the tote board than what the bookies are offering when it comes to playing the Europeans.

Another site I've found helpful in analyzing European form is the Racing Post's website at www.racingpost.co.uk. At the top of the main site's page, a horse's race record can be researched, including the company he has kept. Accessing race records and trip notes is free.