08/31/2001 12:00AM

Second spot key to betting Del Mar BC


PHOENIX - You're obviously not going to get rich backing El Corredor in Sunday's Grade 2 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap. It's obvious to all he's tons the best and figures to be around 3-5. So, do you just pass?

Not so fast. There is a way to turn a 3-5 shot into a 5-1 shot - get the right second horse in the exacta. If likely second choice Budroyale shows up, he may at first appear logical. But he hasn't won in a long time, is getting on in years, has had just one return race from a layoff, and would complete a very low exacta payoff. It seems much less risky to take a stand against Budroyale running second than to take one against El Corredor to win.

So let's take a brief look at the other candidates:

o Performing Magic - Last year he won the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, the Remington Derby, and the Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park, but he has yet to beat a top horse. After running second in the Indiana Derby last October, he didn't race until Aug. 9, when he ran fourth in an allowance sprint at Del Mar. Even if he is ready for his best, is it enough?

o Figlio Mio - He has done little wrong, winning four of his first five, the only loss coming by a head in his first try vs. winners. After rattling off three straight, he had the misfortune of running into El Corredor and Swept Overboard in the Pat O'Brien, and was a non-threatening fifth. He's a horse with some potential for improvement, but is he ready for this caliber in just his second route and after getting manhandled by El Corredor last time?

o Smile Again - The horses he has faced the past few years have been a couple notches below the top, although he won the Grade 2 Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood by a neck in his last start. That race was at 1 1/16 miles, so obviously the mile of this race suits. He has speed, too, and has run well over this track.

But why hasn't he raced since that July 7 win? He seemed to be peaking, so why the near two-month layoff? And if speed's his game, what's he to do about El Corredor? Even if he can't beat him, can he still chase or duel and still have enough to fend off the closers?

o Bright Valour - Trainer Albert Stall is no dummy. So when he put Bright Valour on a plane to ship west, he knew he was probably going to run into El Corredor or Budroyale. But he didn't flinch. Bright Valour is here and ready to go.

And why not? He comes off two smashing wins in the Midwest, one an allowance sprint at Churchill, the other in the mile Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap in the mud at Arlington. A mile is his best game, and he has shown that he doesn't need to carry his track around with him. His midpack style can keep him away from the early heat, and he should have enough energy left in the stretch to make a run. Can he beat El Corredor? That's highly doubtful, but there are plenty of other things pointing to a good effort.

My plan is to try and turn a nothing win price into a decent exacta payoff by playing El Corredor over Bright Valour. The payoff won't put me in another tax bracket, but it can help pad the wallet, and soothe the handicapping psyche.

Del Mar Derby

Monday's Del Mar Derby is, to put it bluntly, impossible to handicap. Yet that type of chaos can lead to riches if you manage to find the right one.

The West Coast contingent is a solid if not spectacular lot. Recent stakes winners Dr. Park, Sigfreto, and Marine, as well as Romanceishope, Euribor, Blue Steller, and Mister Approval make it a deep group. No doubt the best West Coast 3-year-old turfer is Startac, who won the Grade 1 Secretariat, but he isn't running.

Marine or Dr. Park figure a lukewarm favorite in the Del Mar Derby. But one of the best East Coast 3-year-old turfers is here. Trained by Elliott Walden, Indygo Shiner ran well in two turf stakes - winning the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs and finishing second to Baptize in the Arlington Classic - before finishing fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on dirt on Aug. 4. He moves back to his best game here, and that he got close to Baptize, who with Startac is one of the top two 3-year-old turf runners in the country, bodes well for his chances here.

Considering the depth and competitiveness of this field, there's no reason to take a short number. Eastern turf shippers have done well out West (Sligo Bay and Voodoo Dancer, for example). Here's another who can make a mark, at a square price.