06/30/2008 12:00AM

Simplify the pick in intriguing Debutante


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Races for early-season 2-year-olds are typically early scrambles, and Saturday's Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill Downs figures to be no exception.

With nine of the 10 runners coming off maiden victories, and with most accustomed to racing on or close to the lead, the race promises to be hotly contested early, and the winner will likely be the filly best able to withstand an early duel or one capable of rating behind what should be a tussle for the early lead.

Having already closed for second in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup against males May 1, Garden District would seem a logical horse to benefit from such a scenario.

To a lesser extent, so, too, should Simplify, who won her lone start May 1 with a race-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure, despite being bumped in the early going and racing between horses in an early battle for the lead.

Like many Steve Asmussen-trained 2-year-olds, she was highly professional in her debut, showing maturity beyond what would typically be expected from a spring 2-year-old. And beyond that professionalism and maturity, she simply ran quickly, powering past a well-regarded filly in Leigh McLovin to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Admittedly, when a horse runs quickly first out - as Simplify did - she can be vulnerable to bounce in her second start. But Simplify hasn't raced since May 1, which lessens the likelihood of regression, at least to some extent.

She is my choice in this intriguing Debutante, which at six furlongs, is the longest distance any of the 10 entrants have raced.

Solar Flare has shot vs. A. P. Arrow

A. P. Arrow, a horse more accustomed to minor awards than wins in major races, is the headliner of the Suburban Handicap at Belmont, and rest of the field consists mostly of minor stakes horses and allowance competitors.

I'll take a shot with Solar Flare, who won his one start in this country with style after beginning his career promisingly in Argentina. Racing in a third-level allowance at Delaware, he gamely turned back a bid from another challenger to win in fast time, posting a 101 Beyer.

Stretching out in distance from a mile and 70 yards to a 1 1/4 miles, this colt should improve. He scored what was easily his biggest win in Argentina at 1 1/4 miles, winning an allowance race by nine lengths.

He has trained well at Fair Hill, Md., in recent weeks for trainer Larry Jones, a talented horseman whose runners typically show steady improvement.

Student Council worth the price

The Hollywood Gold Cup is a much stronger race than the Suburban, filled largely with horses that have shown a fondness for racing over synthetic surfaces.

Heatseeker is the most probable winner, having won the Big Cap and Californian this year over synthetic surfaces. But he will offer little value at the betting windows as a prohibitive favorite.

Student Council, favorably weighted at 117 pounds, six less than Heatseeker, is a quality alternative to the favorite. He rallied powerfully to win the May 16 Pimlico Special, indicating that he is back in the peak form he exhibited last year in winning the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Temporary Saint sharp now

Horseplayers that can't get enough handicap action Saturday afternoon may wish to keep playing through Saturday evening, when the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows is contested.

The Cornhusker presents a handicapping challenge because many of the contenders are shipping in from other tracks. Zanjero and Encaustic last raced at Lone Star. Temporary Saint is New York-based but last raced in Maryland, running fourth in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special. Delightful Kiss and Prom Shoes last raced at Churchill Downs, and Fairbanks ran second most recently in the Bill Hartack Memorial at Hawthorne Race Course.

Coming off a pair of runner-up finishes this year in the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park Handicap, Zanjero is a legitimate favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Cornhusker. But if Temporary Saint sticks to his 9-2 morning-line odds, he looms the best wager at the price.

An astute claim for $50,000 in the fall of last year by Iowa native Maggi Moss, he has blossomed this year, winning two of four starts and always turning in a quality race.

His last two starts have been his best - a triumph in the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap April 5 and a fourth-place finish in the Pimlico Special, in which he was beaten seven lengths by Student Council.

In the latter race, he weakened after chasing demanding splits - a scenario that appears unlikely to develop in the Cornhusker. This race has only a modest amount of speed, suggesting Temporary Saint should receiving a favorable trip either setting or pressing moderate fractions.