02/06/2003 1:00AM

San Dare should fire once more


NEW YORK - Since the inception of the Weekend Warrior last summer, almost every Saturday has offered a stakes menu to satisfy even the most discerning horseplayer. That isn't exactly the case this Saturday, however. It's almost as if the loaded Presidents Day weekend stakes schedule next week sucked all the energy out of this weekend's stakes action.

Santa Anita's $200,000 La Canada Stakes is by far the most important race on Saturday. But, whether you like Got Koko to complete a sweep of the La Canada series, or prefer Sightseek because she may be loose on the lead, or think Bella Bellucci is primed for a peak performance third off the layoff, with only a handful set to start there will be no value to be had. It's not a good betting race.

Still, even a day playing races that may not be perfect in their composition, intrigue, and value potential beats doing almost everything else. So, here goes:

The Very One

Given the fact that she won this race last year by 6 1/2 lengths, Moon Queen will have considerable support at the windows. The more support, the better. Moon Queen's only race since her big win in this race last year was a dismal effort in the Long Island Handicap. Even with top layoff trainer Christophe Clement in her corner, I wouldn't bet her with counterfeit money.

My pick in this co-feature at Gulfstream Park is the much-improved San Dare, who comes into this off the two best races of her career, a near-miss at 23-1 in the Cardinal, and a victory last time out at 11-1 in the Honey Fox. San Dare also demonstrated she can handle races at extended distances in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager.

But, it is her effort in the Honey Fox that makes San Dare so appealing. Despite a very slow pace, she still managed to rally from last in a field of 10 to get up, and did so with a strong come-home time.


It's possible that after getting clobbered in his last seven starts, Boston Park is sour, or has lost the desire to compete. But, if ever a spot was made for Boston Park to turn it around, this stakes at Aqueduct is it.

Boston Park has competed against much better. He has been in with Vindication, Valid Video, Champali, and Most Feared, and I don't think there is any horse as good as those in the Whirlaway. Even when he was sixth most recently in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, Boston Park finished behind Offlee Wild, Powerful Touch, and Bham, and those are better horses than what he faces here. Plus, Boston Park's effort in the Holy Bull is better than it may appear. Despite being compromised by a tough outside post, he was still only four lengths off the lead in midstretch before fading .

Best of all, even with his strong company lines, Boston Park should still be a square price. The undefeated New York-bred Grey Comet will probably be the favorite, and if he's not, Torre and Zim will be. Torre and Zim is 2 for 3 and trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., who could send out a cockroach in New York at single-digit odds.


Allamerican Bertie nearly made me look good when I picked her in the Alabama last summer, when she almost held off champion Farda Amiga, and she showed what she is capable of later on when she upset Take Charge Lady in the Falls City. But, even though she will like going turf to dirt in Gulfstream's Sabin, Allamerican Bertie's recent comeback in the Honey Fox was so dull that if she's ever going to be vulnerable in a race like this, now may be the time.

Softly is the selection. She was no match for Allamerican Bertie when third in the Falls City in her most recent start, but her late kick was compromised that day by moderate early fractions. Softly may be aided by a hotter pace this time, and she boasts a fine record over the track.