10/19/2005 11:00PM

The shoes could make the horse


ELMONT, N.Y. - Human nature being what it is, horseplayers are always on the lookout for quick and easy betting angles, especially weekend warriors who don't always have enough free time for comprehensive handicapping.

One angle frequently gets terrific results, and what's more, it is so deceptively simple that many players have trouble believing in its power:

On sealed wet racetracks, bet the horse(s) equipped with mud calks.

That's all there is to it. With rain in the forecast for New York Showcase Day, and based on the results from the last two rainy Saturdays, you might want to upgrade the chances of any horse wearing calks on the biggest day of the year for New York-breds.

Those who believe mud calks give horses an edge in traction on sealed tracks had ample opportunity to test their faith during the recent stretch of rainy weather. Belmont's main track was wet and sealed the last two Saturdays, and a total of 31 horses (including an entry) wore mud calks on the two programs, which meant $60 covered the "field" on $2 flat bets. There were 10 winners, a 33 percent hit rate that mirrors the universal average of winning favorites - except that only three of the winners were favorites, and several were longshots. Their total return of $149.90 was 2 1/2 times the original investment, thanks to the likes of Mister Hennessy ($44.60), Megatrend ($35.80), and Asti ($16.20), the only runner wearing the magic slippers in the off-the-turf Athenia Handicap.

Let's look over the seven New York-bred stakes races, five of which are scheduled for the main track:

Sleepy Hollow: Parkhimonbroadway finished third behind Sharp Humor and Trading Pro in the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes, but there are reasons to think he can turn the tables.

Sharp Humor has won both starts when able to get the early lead. He set an easy pace in the Bongard by running an opening half of 46.47 seconds, which was slower than the juvenile fillies ran (45.97) in the Joseph A. Gimma Stakes on the same card. Parkhimonbroadway steadied inside into the turn and was forced to circle widest approaching the stretch.

Parkhimonbroadway's trainer, Mike Hushion, routinely equips his horses with calks. And Parkhimonbroadway's sire, Ecton Park, won the 1999 Jim Dandy by five lengths on a sloppy track.

An intriguing price play is Building New Era, a last-out maiden winner who has improved several lengths in each start for Gary Contessa. Contessa was tied for the meet's training lead after saddling two longshot winners on Wednesday, and he often equips his horses with calks.

Maid of the Mist: These juvenile fillies are running for second money if Cinderella's Dream runs back to her maiden victory on this track just over three weeks ago, when she recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 97 to graduate by 11 lengths. Among 2-year-old fillies in New York this year, the only ones to earn higher figures are Folklore (99) in the Matron and Sensation (98) in the Astarita.

Artistic Express beat Cinderella's Dream in the mud at Saratoga, albeit with a Beyer of 72. She repeated that figure wiring the Gimma, a race in which the horses running 1-2-3-4 at the first call remained that way to the wire, walking home the last eighth of a mile in 14.20 seconds.

Iroquois Handicap: Seeking the Ante looks to be in a good spot. Throw out four Grade 1 starts, and one on turf, and Seeking the Ante has won 4 of 5 starts this season, the lone defeat by a half-length in the Grade 2 Comely Stakes. Moreover, three of those wins were orchestrated with a long-to-short distance switch, and she is turning back again after an even try in the Gazelle.

Slew Motion, who was caught in the final yards by Seeking the Ante in the Grade 2 Nassau County back in May, looms the one to catch.

A wet track helps Travelator, who has won 4 of 8 under such conditions.

Ticonderoga Handicap: As fate would have it, the first three finishers from last year's Ticonderoga - On the Bus, Sabellina, and Little Buttercup - drew the three outside posts pending any late scratches, and there will be plenty of scratches if the rain is heavy enough to force this race to the main track. The prime beneficiaries of that scenario would be Buck Mountain, who won by nine lengths in the slop at Aqueduct back in April; Rahys' Appeal, fifth in an open stakes the last time she ran on dirt; and Sweeping Glance, a maiden winner in the slop at Saratoga and second on a good track last month.

Hudson Handicap: The top three finishers from last year's Hudson - Friendly Island, Clever Electrician, and Papua - are back. Friendly Island wired in 2004, but has not been out in nearly 11 months since tiring in the Fall Highweight Handicap, and will have to deal with the speedy Show Boot.

Papua, who has won 5 of 8 on wet tracks, benefits if the rains come.

Clever Electrician's lone slop start this year was a third in the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap on this track.

Mohawk Handicap: Certifiably Crazy, who set the pace and was run down in deep stretch of this race a year ago, ran huge to win the recent Ashley T. Cole in his first start off a trainer change to Rich Schosberg. If the race remains on the grass, he gets a rematch with Dave and Provincetown, who finished ahead of him in the West Point Handicap.

Wet dirt would make Win With Beck the one to beat. His last two victories have come on wet tracks, notably a front-running win over Oratory, winner of the Peter Pan next out.

Empire Classic: Spite the Devil, West Virginia, and Mr. Determined, 1-2-3 in this race last year, are joined by stakes-winning contenders Yankee Mon, Naughty New Yorker, and Galloping Grocer. Galloping Grocer makes his first start since setting a blistering pace in the Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Saratoga.

The pace figures to be hotly contested by Yankee Mon and Galloping Grocer. That may set the table for West Virginia, who ran down Presidentialaffair to win the Grade 3 Iselin in his last start.