10/22/2002 11:00PM

Sifting garbage for the golden nuggets


PHILADELPHIA - There was a time in my gambling life when I did not want to listen to anybody, because I was so sure that I already had all the answers. I was disabused of that concept years ago.

This week, more than any other, it really pays to listen. What is difficult is sifting through all the information without letting your personal biases get in the way.

I spent much of last weekend looking at tapes of the Breeders' Cup prep races. This week, I have reviewed some of the races on a CD-ROM. Notes have been taken.

I know what I saw. Now, I need to make sense of what I hear.

Forget all the trainers who tell you their horses are doing better than ever. They all are saying that. We all know that some horses are going to get beaten by the length of the stretch. So how good were they doing, really?

I want to know where horses are going to be placed in their races so I read and I listen. I want to learn something that will support a belief or counter it. That kind of information is not on any tape. And information could be money, perhaps lots of money.

Some trainers, of course, will not tell the truth. Others will want it to happen one way and their jockeys will have other ideas. Mistakes will be made. Bad luck will happen. Much will be completely unpredictable.

My job is to make it more predictable. As I write this, a few hours before the draw for post positions, I have already been over each race several times. I have formed a preliminary Ultra Pick Six strategy. There are a few superfectas that look very interesting. The pick four is very intriguing.

There are several assumptions that have been widely made: Azeri is awesome; Storm Flag Flying is the day's most likely winner; the Sprint has a ton of early speed; and the Euros are dominant.

I agree with one of the assumptions. I am not at all sure about another. I don't agree with one at all. And I sort of agree about the Euros.

The Juvenile Fillies has a lot of early speed. Storm Flag Flying should be able to get a comfortable position somewhere behind all that speed. She absolutely should win.

When Xtra Heat is in a race, she is the speed. Yes, there is a ton of paper speed in the Sprint. How many times does the great filly have to make the front before everybody gets the point? She is the speed.

I don't get the Azeri hype. Shouldn't there be a law that you can only beat Affluent so many times?

I watched the tapes. I know how easily Azeri has won her races. But what happens if she is tested early (Imperial Gesture), in the middle (Take Charge Lady), and late (Summer Colony)? I don't know the answer, but I have my suspicions. It won't be like running against the same California horses over and over again.

Hey, she may dominate again. I will take a stand against her.

The Euros should win the Mile and the Turf. But who didn't know that? I am prepared to try to beat Hawk Wing in the Classic. I just don't see him as another Giant's Causeway or Sakhee.

The American horses are getting little credit.

What I see are two horses (War Emblem and Medaglia d'Oro) who survived the Triple Crown and actually got better. Medaglia d'Oro's Beyers are improving. I thought War Emblem's Pacific Classic was terrific. We all know he needs the lead to run his best, yet he tried very hard without the front.

Came Home has lost one race all year. I can't account for his Kentucky Derby. But do the names Point Given and Holy Bull mean anything to you? There was no way to account for their races in the Derby either. What I do know is that Came Home will fire.

In the end, I have exactly two Breeders' Cup wishes, one sentimental and one practical. I want Xtra Heat to win the Sprint because she deserves to win. And, I want to hit the pick six. It's not that I necessarily deserve it. I just want it.