07/13/2005 11:00PM

Slow final time can be excused


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pace regularly influences the final times of turf races. A slow pace results in a slow time, a fast pace in a fast time. It doesn't necessary make the horses exiting the fast race superior; the quick early fractions merely set the stage for them to run faster.

Two good examples of this pace trend occurred during the recently concluded Churchill Downs meet when Everything to Gain rallied from behind blazing splits to win a mile allowance in 1:34.33 on July 10, running faster than champion Kitten's Joy did in winning the slow-paced Firecracker in 1:35.25 on July 4.

Pace can also alter the final times of dirt races, although less frequently. But it still happens often enough that handicappers can periodically capitalize by betting horses exiting slow-paced races that appear underrated on the basis of their last-race times.

One such runner, My Extolled Honor, is entered in the first of Saturday's Claiming Crown stakes at Canterbury Park, the Iron Horse, race 3.

Already the marginally fastest entrant on the basis of last-race figures, he is likely even more superior than that race indicates. Racing June 15 in a seven-furlong starter allowance at Churchill Downs, he showed a powerful kick to catch heavily favored Scat Cat Jamey in the closing strides. He raced seven furlongs in 1:23.31, posting an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

Considering how the race shaped up, I was amazed to see him win. With most of the six horses in the field being routers or horses who come from behind, Scat Cat Jamey made the front by running the opening quarter in 23.47 seconds and a half-mile in 46.46. A typical race for starter-allowance horses at Churchill likely would have had fractions of about a second faster after both a quarter- and half-mile.

My Extolled Honor and Scat Cat Jamey finished strongly leaving the turn and through the stretch, but the slow pace made it impossible for them to run their fastest time. My Extolled Honor ended up gaining five lengths in the final three-eighths of a mile to win, finishing in about 36 seconds.

What did the slow pace cost him and the other horses in the race in terms of time and figures? If I had to guess, they likely would have run about two-fifths of a second faster - or about four Beyer points higher.

The subsequent results of horses that finished behind My Extolled Honor suggest at least as much. Scat Cat Jamey - who, by the way, was likely beaten by an overconfident ride when My Extolled Honor caught him - returned to defeat one-other-than allowance company at Churchill, jumping up 4 Beyer points off the 84 he posted when second in the slow-paced race. Two others from the race also improved their subsequent Beyers, with Vivid Views moving forward 9 points, and sixth-place American Token jumping up 19 points. One, Port Hueneme, dropped slightly from a 66 to a 64.

There are other factors that point to a strong performance from My Extolled Honor. He is training well, in top form, and starting for connections that have had success in the Claiming Crown. His co-owners, Bobby Asaro and trainer Steve Asmussen, teamed up to win the Claiming Crown Emerald with Image in 2003.

My Extolled Honor, 9-2 on the track morning line, is more accomplished racing on dirt around one turn than two, but otherwise has few faults.

Crafty Player an overlay

Crafty Player, coming off nine consecutive on-the-board finishes, looks like an overlay in the seventh race, the Rapid Transit. He is not the most probable winner against the likes of stakes winner Rodeo's Castle and the Scott Lake-trained The Student, but he will likely offer a tick or two higher odds than he should.

The reason? The "Rick Dutrow off" factor. Dutrow, serving a 60-day suspension for medication violations, is no longer this horse's trainer of record. Canterbury trainer Wilson Brown is the program trainer, a switch that will likely result in a bigger price on the odds board.

Don't let the trainer change fool you into underestimating this horse. Even with Dutrow away from the racetrack, his horses have continued to perform well. In two of many examples, Offlee Wild and Saint Liam won the Suburban and Clark, respectively, for different trainers after Dutrow went on suspension.

Saint Liam's trainer for the Clark, Bobby Frankel, gave the credit for that win to Dutrow's staff at Aqueduct, where the horse was based leading up to the race. Care to guess where Crafty Player has been stabled leading up to the Claiming Crown? You guessed it, the Big A.