10/21/2003 11:00PM

So many Cup questions, so little time


PHILADELPHIA - Having given up on finding those Fix Six guys from Drexel for some last-minute advice (or is it next-minute advice?) and before sitting down to frame my Breeders' Cup bets around those horses I like the most, I have some questions.

What about Forest Music? She may one of the most amazing winners of a maiden race in history. She seemed to beat the gate and never stopped running in an Oct. 8 race at Laurel. She got a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

If she gets loose in the Juvenile Fillies, will she run another 105? Will the other riders take her seriously? Should we?

With Halfbridled and Class Above in the race, Forest Music did not stumble into an easy spot. All those two fillies have done is win their five starts by a combined 35 1/2 lengths.

If you live on the East Coast, you learn to take seriously everything Michael Gill and Mark Shuman send to the track. Are they being exceedingly bold running in the Cup? Absolutely. Should they be dismissed? Not by me.

Can Perfect Soul duplicate his awesome effort in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland? The horse had every reason to get beat - traffic on the turn, nowhere to run behind a wall in the stretch. Still, when he finally got clear, he blew by the field.

And if the horse does duplicate that race, will it be good enough to beat Euro stars Oasis Dream, Six Perfections, and all the other talent in the Mile?

Assuming you do not have the insights of those guys from Drexel, the Mile will be the key race in the Ultra Pick Six. Almost any horse could win. If you are into the pick six - and it is really against everything we stand for as a republic not to be involved - you won't have to wait long to find out what you know. Or don't know.

Can Scott Lake, who is closing in on 400 winners in 2003, really win the Sprint with a horse he claimed for $65,000 on March 12? After coming so close with longshot Thunderello last year, Lake is back with Shake You Down, nobody's longshot. With six wins since the claim and Beyer Figures of 118 twice, 113, 108, 121, and 115, Shake You Down clearly is good enough.

Will Shake You Down be the speed of the speed? What about the freaky-fast Midas Eyes, out since June? Can Aldebaran possibly get there in time?

Where have you gone Birdstone, Ruler's Court, and Eurosilver?

Is High Chaparral the same killer we saw at Arlington Park? What's up with Falbrav? Isn't there a law against racing incredibly well-bred, top-class European horses as 5-year-olds? Are Storming Home and Sulamani really as good as their American form suggests?

A year later, can somebody please explain Volponi? Since hardly anybody, including me, gives Funny Cide much of a chance in the Classic, should we all use him in supers?

Will Congaree actually be ridden like a speed horse? Keeping Perfect Drift in the race at Turfway was Exhibit A in how not to ride a speed horse.

Doesn't Mineshaft have to forfeit Horse of the Year if Medaglia d'Oro, Perfect Drift, or Funny Cide wins the Classic. And couldn't one make a case for Ten Most Wanted or Congaree if either won the Classic?

Will any player who walks out of Santa Anita with pockets bulging really care about which horses did not appear on Saturday? Is there a way to put the pause button on a day that just goes too fast? And when something goes too fast, doesn't it mean that you are into it from start to finish?

The Breeders' Cup is not only the book you can't put down - it is the book that you do not want to end.