02/05/2009 1:00AM

Saez sitting on two good wagers at Fair Grounds


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Knowing that speed horses often possess an advantage over closers, many horseplayers love "send" riders, jockeys known for hustling their mounts away from the gate and securing them a position on the lead.

I take a contrarian view, however, generally preferring riders that let a natural speed horse place himself at a comfortable pace.

It has been my experience that horses hustled to the front can underachieve, unless able to clear and relax on the lead. The reason? Given their cue, their competitiveness kicks in and these horses sometimes set or push too demanding a pace.

Very few horses, except the very classiest, are like cars in that they can accelerate and decelerate at various points in a race. When you hit the accelerator on an eager horse, it has a tendency to stick.

In watching Gabriel Saez ride, he understands this concept better than most. He sits patiently on a horse, leaving it with more in the tank for the stretch - although he, like any other rider, isn't immune from mistakes.

It is partially his patient style that makes two of his mounts Saturday at Fair Grounds good wagers - Friesan Fire in the Risen Star Stakes, and Honest Man in the Mineshaft Handicap.

Saez showed what he can do with Friesan Fire when they teamed up Jan. 10 to win the Lecomte Stakes. Breaking from the rail, a position from which most riders will hustle their mounts, Saez instead sat chilly, taking a hold of Friesan Fire and placing him behind two other runners as the leaders set a moderate pace.

Rated 2 1/2 lengths behind a half-mile split of 48.87 seconds, the colt had plenty left for the second half of the race, surged past the opposition on the turn, and drew clear to a 1 1/2-length victory.

Breaking from midpack and with other speed in the Risen Star, Friesan Fire and Saez may work out the same trip.

Friesan Fire also has other factors in his favor, most notably catching Giant Oak coming off a layoff dating back to November, and benefiting from Au Moon, the Lecomte third-place finisher, getting stuck with the outside post in the field of 13.

As for Honest Man in the Mineshaft, he is reunited with Saez, who has not been aboard for his last three starts. A front-runner that can be overeager, Honest Man should benefit from a patient ride.

Last month when returning from a layoff in the Louisiana Handicap, he went to the front under Terry Thompson, and being fresh, simply went too fast. After setting splits of 22.86 seconds and 46.65 in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race, he understandably faded in the lane. He ended up third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Good and Lucky.

Drawn on the outside in post 8, Saez can sit still on Honest Man, taking the lead if no rival to his inside is intent on making the front, or putting him in a pace-pressing position in which the horse is similarly comfortable.

This is a horse that rallied from fifth to win the Grade 3 Iselin last year. He is by no means a need-the-lead front-runner.

Delta Downs: Look for the upset

The stakes action Saturday in Louisiana isn't limited to daytime racing at Fair Grounds. Delta Downs is also hosting a stakes-rich card in the evening, capped by the $200,000 Premier Night Championship, a 1 1/16-mile stakes race for Louisiana-breds.

An evenly matched field of 10 was entered, including an entry, making it a good wagering event.

Star Guitar, is 5 for 6 and looks formidable, having won three stakes, including two in a row. But his Beyer Speed Figures trail those of two or three others in the field, and he is untested racing as far as 1 1/16 miles.

Snug, coming off a fast win in the Cypress Stakes over the Delta Downs strip, could also be vulnerable after running a career-best 97 Beyer in his latest. He could bounce, and he picks up seven pounds.

Primed to upset is Southern Invasion, who gets a weight break from many in the field and also figures to get a favorable stalking trip.