02/23/2006 1:00AM

Seeking Answers right price play


NEW YORK - A pair of $250,000 stakes races, the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, highlight Saturday's national stakes action. The Southwest was rescheduled for Saturday after Oaklawn suffered weather-related cancellations last weekend. The only other graded stakes on the schedule is the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap, one of two $100,000 stakes races Saturday at Santa Anita.

Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup

The early pace in this race promises to be very strong, and that figures to play to the strength of Fort Prado, who came from behind to win three stakes last summer at Arlington Park and the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap in his most recent start. But Fort Prado is likely to be no higher than second choice in the betting, if not the favorite. Meanwhile, there is a very appealing alternative who figures to be a nice price, that being Seeking Answers.

Seeking Answers has a good closing kick when he is on his game, as he demonstrated when he was third in the Opening Verse Handicap last June, a deceptively good fourth in the Troy at Saratoga, and won the Yaqthan last September. His recent form is somewhat darkened in that he was overmatched in the Shadwell Turf Mile and was compromised by a lack of pace in the River City Handicap, but that might only help his price.

There are reasons to think Seeking Answers will be on his game. He had a fast workout earlier this week and comes into this race fresh. That is a good thing, as every other race in his past performances off a layoff line resulted in a big performance.

Mountain Valley Stakes

This is Oaklawn's supporting feature to the Southwest and is a race that Afleet Alex won in his first start last year. There does not appear to be any Afleet Alexes in this race this year, but there is a lot of early speed. So with the thought that this race will be won from off the pace, I like Fidrych.

Fidrych gained some ground and improved his position when third last out in the Dixieland. He was beaten two lengths, finishing behind Celluloid Hero and Urban Guy, who is back in the Mountain Valley and will be among the favorites. But Urban Guy enjoyed a perfect trip in that race, whereas Fidrych's trip was not quite as favorable. Also, Urban Guy was coming off a slightly shorter layoff than Fidrych was. Not only does Fidrych fit the pace scenario, he has a license to take a bigger step forward this time, and two solid workouts since the Dixieland suggest he will.

Gulfstream Breeders' Cup

Unlike the first two races discussed, there is no speed in this event. Now, sometimes turf marathons that set up like this one are still won from off the pace by the horse who has the best kick home. But there is such a lack of speed here that I want a horse who will be up there early, and that horse is Gun Salute.

Gun Salute figures in this race, anyway. In between victories last year in the American Derby and Hawthorne Derby, he soundly defeated English Channel in the Secretariat Stakes. In fact, Gun Salute's only poor race last year was the BC Turf, in which he ran on short rest and was overmatched. Saturday, Gun Salute is expected to prompt a pace set by Einstein, who is stepping way up off a front-running win in an off-the-turf race over a speed favoring track, and then break this race open turning for home.


Tampa Bay Downs: Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup
4 And Up, About 1 1/16 Miles, Turf

Approximate post: Eastern-4:09 p.m., Central-3:09 p.m., Mountain-2:09 p.m., Pacific-1:09 p.m.; Tampa, Fl., forecast: Slight chance of showers, 77¦

2Above the Wind941017010-1
3Cherokee Prince90868930-1
5Major Parker72738030-1
6Fort Prado9692965-2
7Seeking Answers9191898-1
10Icy Atlantic9997889-2
12Spring House93908915-1
Also eligible:
13He's Hammered81846920-1
14Mystery Giver93102795-2

Coupled: Fort Prado and Mystery Giver; odds by Jim Kachulis

Oaklawn Park: Mountain Valley Stakes
3-Year-Olds, 6 Furlongs

Approximate post: E-4:51 p.m., C-3:51 p.m., M-2:51 p.m., P-1:51 p.m.; Hot Springs, Ar., forecast: Slight chance of morning rain, 59¦

1Mr. Pinstripe71747415-1
4Corredor de Plata8385-6-1
6Coppetone Kid73714720-1
7Urban Guy8680983-1
9Formal Appeal80715110-1
10Smart 'n Salty79668712-1
11Premier Dance6180768-1

Odds by Bill Howard

Gulfstream: Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup
3 And Up, 1 7/16 Miles, Turf

Approximate post: E-5:22 p.m., C-4:22 p.m., M-3:22 p.m., P-2:22 p.m.; Hallandale Beach, Fl., forecast: Slight chance of showers, 80¦

1Honor in War10097973-1
2Broadway View92899120-1
3Go Deputy10198977-2
6Request for Parole9995895-1
8Gun Salute91951074-1

Odds by Art Gropper