07/05/2007 12:00AM

Shaggy Mane's speed will hold


NEW YORK - Stakes-filled cards at Hollywood Park and Calder Race Course highlight a busy national stakes schedule Saturday.

Princess Rooney Handicap

Whether it is a major stakes event or a claimer, when a race is packed with early speed, the obvious inclination is to look for a closer who can capitalize on the pace setup. But on occasion, you will encounter a race jammed with early speed where you just don't trust the closers because, for example, they are either out of form, or just aren't all that good in the first place. This is that kind of race for me, and when I come across such a race, I want the speed of the speed. And in this instance, I believe the speed of the speed is Shaggy Mane.

Few sprinters of either sex impressed me as much this year as Shaggy Mane did when she upset the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint two starts back. She ran a good group of 12 opponents absolutely dizzy, getting right to the front through smoking early splits and then pouring it on through the stretch to score by nearly eight lengths and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 108, which is co-tops in this field. Shaggy Mane did not do as well most recently when she ran fourth in the Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard, but the winner of that race, Hystericalady, was especially sharp that day, and that race was at seven furlongs, which is probably a bit farther than Shaggy Mane wants to go. She is well suited to the cut back to six furlongs Saturday, and ought to outrun Selvatica for the lead and go wire to wire.

Triple Bend Invitational Handicap

I have the utmost respect for Surf Cat. Although he might be brittle - he raced only three times last year and will be making his first start in 14 months Saturday - he is a real talent who is highly effective at sprint through middle distances, something you don't see too often these days. But even though Surf Cat has worked bullets lately and looks formidable on paper, this is not an easy spot to launch a comeback. So I'm going to try and beat Surf Cat with Siren Lure.

Siren Lure went into a bit of a funk after he finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last fall after a wide trip against an inside bias. But Siren Lure recently returned from a freshening with a much -improved second in the Ack Ack Handicap. That effort suggests that Siren Lure is ready to return to the form he demonstrated last year when he showed strong closing kicks to string together decisive scores in the Los Angeles Handicap, this race, and the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap. And between Sailors Sunset, Bilo, and Battle Won, Siren Lure should get a hot enough pace to set up his late run.

Carry Back Stakes

No matter how you rate Teuflesberg as a performer, you can't help but respect his toughness. After competing in five straight races at a mile or longer, he overcame a sharp cutback in distance and a poor start to win the Woody Stephens Stakes last time out on the Belmont Stakes undercard. But as tough as Teuflesberg is, I don't think he's a match for Black Seventeen's speed in this spot.

If you filter through Black Seventeen's losses - he went 6 1/2 furlongs off a 6 1/2-month layoff, and was asked to go longer than he wants to in the Santa Anita Derby - you will find he has three dominating wins from as many career starts going six furlongs, earning impressive Beyer Figures of 96, 96, and a 109 last time out. Unless he suffers a disastrous start, Black Seventeen's high California speed should put him comfortably in front early. And I don't think he'll be caught.