01/01/2007 12:00AM

Singling two in Calder's all-stakes pick four


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With Calder Race Course hosting another Grand Slam program of four stakes on Saturday, it seems only fitting to take a swing at its all-stakes pick four. Here's how I plan to play the wager with a small ticket.

Pete Axthelm (race 8)

A 7 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old turf horses, this race is probably the second-most competitive of the pick four races, behind only the Frances A. Genter Stakes, race 10 on the card. Twelve horses are in the body of the field, plus four also-eligibles, and many appear to have similar ability.

My top choices, in order of preference, are Outperformance (No. 2) and Can't Beat It (No. 7), who are established as skilled 3-year-old grass runners. Outperformance, winner of the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes earlier in the year, was second two starts ago in the Jamaica Breeders' Cup Handicap behind eventual Hollywood Derby winner Showing Up. Can't Beat It, meanwhile, is a classy turf horse in his own right, having won two stakes on grass, including the Grade 3 Calder Derby over Croton Road.

Both Outperformance and Can't Beat It come off efforts that are not among their best, but neither is in poor form. Outperformance ran a slightly disappointing race in finishing fourth in the Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs Nov. 11, and Can't Beat It ran sixth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, against older horses in the Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder Dec. 2.

Although Outperformance and Can't Beat It are the most probable winners, I do not see them too far ahead of the pack. So I will go four deep in this race, also using Croton Road (No. 3), a horse with 7 wins from 15 starts, and Steel the Glory (No. 8), a winner of 4 of his last 5 starts. Neither is proven at this level of competition, but both love to win and command respect.

Chaposa Springs (race 9)

Three fillies stand out in this six-horse, seven-furlong sprint: Grecian Love, Annabill, and Toll Taker. But to go three deep in the pick four with such a short field does not make financial sense, particularly with a wide-open race following the Chaposa Springs.

Although I respect the winning history of the Annabill and the stakes accomplishments of Toll Taker, I will single Grecian Lover (No. 1), who has had a successful 2006, winning a couple of allowances and placing in a couple of stakes, including the Grade 2 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap.

The drop into the $100,000 Chaposa Springs is a positive move for Grecian Lover. Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens is gunning for a stakes win for her, which would enhance her value as a broodmare.

Running seven furlongs at this level of competition looks like a recipe for success. She ran well in two starts at Calder last year, winning one allowance and placing in another.

Frances A. Genter (race 10)

This race mirrors the Pete Axthelm in that it is a 7 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-olds, but this race is for fillies. Like the Axthelm, it looks wide open.

J'ray (No. 1) is a deserving favorite off a runner-up finish in the Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs, but she is not a lock. I'll use J'ray plus four others on my pick four tickets.

The other four are Rasta Farian (No. 5), who twice ran lofty speed figures on grass over the summer; Dancing Band (No. 6), the third-place finisher behind Wait a While and Lady of Venice in the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes in August; Amansara (No. 8), a minor stakes winner at the Meadowlands; and Bayou's Lassie (No. 9), who ran second against older mares in the Grade 3 My Charmer Dec. 2.

Stage Door Betty (race 11)

Take D' Tour (No. 1) faces significant pace pressure, and will shoulder top weight of 124 pounds under the handicap conditions of the race, but she looks head and shoulders above the rest of the field from a class perspective.

This mare won the Shuvee and Ogden Phipps handicaps earlier this year in eye-opening fashion, and while she has not come close to replicating those performances in recent starts, she picked up an important confidence-building win at Calder in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap last month.

Winning around two turns for the first time in the Heubeck, she showed a willingness to rate for jockey Eibar Coa. Knowing that she does not have to be in front to win gives Coa options in a speed-laden Stage Door Betty.

The ticket: a $2 pick four of 2,3,7,8 with 1 with 1,5,6,8,9 with 1. Cost, $40..