07/06/2008 11:00PM

Segal should benefit from defeat


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If the Bashford Manor Stakes were to have been run June 5 and not July 5, Segal would likely start as a prohibitive favorite, having won a maiden race stylishly May 7, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 80.

But a month later - following a loss in Canada in which he finished a distant third of five in the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine June 15 - he is more of a tepid public choice, if he starts as the favorite at all. His loss, a 6 1/2-length defeat that resulted in him regressing to a Beyer Figure of 60, has taken away some of his luster.

In my eyes, however, he is better positioned to win the Bashford Manor after having made the trip to Canada. Unlike some of his opponents, who have experience only in maiden races, he is a little more battle-tested, having shipped and encountered winners. He is less likely to get rattled in stakes company this time around.

Adding to his appeal is his return to the Churchill main track, where he was so dominant in victory previously. He is fond of this surface, while he seemed to not fire over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Woodbine recently.

Although Segal's trainer, Steve Asmussen, is capable of winning any type of race, his horses, who are often speedy, precocious performers, generally perform better on dirt than on synthetic surfaces. According to Daily Racing Form statistics, his win rate on dirt is 24 percent, compared with 14 percent on synthetic surfaces.

Even Kodiak Kowboy, who won the Bashford Manor for Asmussen last July after winning the Victoria Stakes last June, has a record of 1-0-0 in 3 starts on synthetic tracks, compared with 4-2-1 in 7 starts on dirt.

Given Segal's past experience at Churchill Downs and his trainer's history, he is the choice to return to peak form and win the Bashford Manor.

Prioress: By the Light worth a shot

Saturday's Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont Park appears at quick glance to be the perfect spot for Indian Blessing to return to winning form. Cutting back to six furlongs after facing the nation's best fillies going distances beyond her best, she looks well suited in the Prioress to utilizing her best asset, her speed.

The problem, of course, is that most every bettor will be thinking that.

Indian Blessing, the champion 2-year-old filly of last year, has been 7-10 or less in all four starts this year, and once again figures to go off as a short-priced favorite.

My concern with Indian Blessing is that she has let down her backers twice this year, with losses in the Fair Grounds Oaks to Proud Spell and in the Acorn to Zaftig when positioned to shake loose to clear leads.

Even in winning the Silverbulletday and Santa Ynez Stakes, she was harder pressed to win than many expected.

Also keep in mind that the lowest Beyer of her career, an 87, came in winning the Frizette over the Belmont surface last fall.

So I'll take a shot to try to beat her with the unbeaten By the Light, who has never raced in a graded stakes race, but who is a proven six-furlong performer and is a filly versatile enough to adapt to any pace.

If the pace is modest, she can remain close. And if Indian Blessing is forced into quick splits, she can launch an off the pace rally.

By the Light is in sharp form, having rallied from last to win her seasonal bow May 24 in the Pearl City Stakes at Belmont, her first race since taking the $300,000 Delta Princess in December.

American Oaks: Invader has the edge

The Grade 1 American Oaks Invitational is one of the best stakes races for wagering this weekend, with contention running deep among the international field of 12 3-year-old fillies.

With many in the field untested at the distance of 1 1/4 miles on turf, my choice is French invader Satan's Circus, who acts like a true distance filly. A listed stakes winner in France going 1 5/16 miles, she finished fifth most recently in the Grade 1 French Oaks at that same distance.

Reunited with jockey Ioritz Mendizabal, who is 3 for 3 riding the filly, she appears poised for a strong effort at a price.

Sweetest Chant: Tiz to Dream sharp

Saturday's Sweetest Chant Stakes at Arlington does not offer the same quality, but it is a solid $50,000 stakes race for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles over Polytrack.

Tiz to Dream - who ran third at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 La Troienne and then fifth in the Grade 3 Dogwood - should move up with the return to a synthetic racing surface, having won over Keeneland's Polytrack in April.

She is in sharp form, has been training over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Skylight Training Center in Kentucky, and is by one of the top synthetic-track sires in the country in Tiznow.

With a short run to the turn in 1 1/16-mile races at Arlington, I would have preferred a better draw than post 8, but otherwise there is plenty to like about Tiz to Dream.