07/07/2004 11:00PM

Show them who's boss, Artie Schiller


NEW YORK - Churchill Downs may have closed for the summer last Monday, but Churchill Downs-owned racetracks are still open for action. Two of them, Calder Race Course and Hollywood Park, have huge days of stakes racing Saturday.

Saturday is the $1.75 million Summit of Speed at Calder, which has six stakes events at six furlongs or less. The big events are the Smile Sprint Handicap and the Princess Rooney Handicap, each worth $500,000, and the Carry Back and Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes, each worth $300,000.

Meanwhile, Saturday is Hollywood Gold Cup Day at Hollywood Park. And while the 2004 renewal of this Grade 1, $750,000 event isn't the strongest ever, Hollywood Gold Cup Day is nevertheless always a big day.

Also to be run on the Gold Cup card are the $400,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes and the $150,000 A Gleam Invitational Handicap.

Saturday is the first Virginia Million Day at Colonial Downs, where the main event is the $500,000 Virginia Derby. Supporting the Virginia Derby are the All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes and the Virginia Oaks, each worth $200,000.

Other notable races Saturday are the $100,000 Poker Handicap at Belmont Park and the $100,000 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park.

Here are this week's three Warrior races, in the order I like them:

Virginia Derby

Here's hoping the betting public goes crazy here over three-time turf stakes winner Kitten's Joy and Prince Arch, who handed Kitten's Joy his first defeat on turf when he beat him a head in the Jefferson Cup last time out. That is because I think Artie Schiller is the best 3-year-old turf horse in the country, and I expect him to prove it in this race.

Artie Schiller ran a big race winning the Hill Prince last time out, which he accomplished after making most of the pace. What was so impressive about the race is the way he came home. Artie Schiller broke the race open with a fourth quarter-mile in 22.91 seconds and put the race away with a final eighth in 11.10. That made for a final three furlongs in 34.01. I don't care how slow the early fractions were or how fast the going was (it wasn't that fast for the Hill Prince; it rained the night before) - that time is smoking and is a strong indicator that Artie Schiller will handle the stretchout to 1 1/4 miles. Moreover, Artie Schiller doesn't have to be close early to win. He proved that when he came from sixth to dominate the Woodlawn two starts back.


Maybe this is the race where Rock Hard Ten starts to fulfill the expectations so many have for him, but I'll be betting against him at a short price. He's running back fairly quickly after competing in the last two legs of the Triple Crown, especially after being used so hard in the opening mile of the Belmont. As a result, Rock Hard Ten may be vulnerable.

I'm going with Boomzeeboom. Boomzee-boom is certainly meeting tougher than he did when he won the Affirmed Handicap last month, but he was all heart in that race. Boomzeeboom lost the lead to more highly regarded barn mate Twice as Bad, not once, but twice that day - once on the far turn and again in the stretch. But he fought back both times to make the Affirmed his third straight win on dirt in Southern California.

Smile Sprint Handicap

Clock Stopper is the play here. He is sometimes a poor-breaker, but that didn't stop him from an overwhelming victory most recently at Churchill Downs in only his second start of the year or from a fast closing second last September in the Kentucky Cup Sprint to Cajun Beat, who came back to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Clock Stopper's off-the-pace style fits in a race where the pace will be nothing if not hot.