04/11/2002 12:00AM

Speed horse vs. good horse


LEXINGTON, Ky. - In the last 20 runnings of Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes, the leader has led all the way 10 times.

Speed has always been a desirable quality over this track, and the chances of the quick horse are further enhanced by the configuration of the course, with its sweeping turns and relatively short stretch. But the good horse overcomes problems to carry the day.

That, in essence, is the outline of Saturday's 78th Blue Grass, starring those tenacious rivals Harlan's Holiday and Booklet. Booklet is the quick horse and set the pace in all three of their memorable confrontations in Florida this winter. He won two, but got caught up in a speed duel in the Florida Derby and faded to fourth.

"I look for a different race this time," said Booklet's trainer, John Ward. "We drew the outside post for the Blue Grass, so our colt's speed should be the controlling factor. Also, the challenging speed in the Florida Derby came from part of an entry, presumably assigned that role. All the runners in the Blue Grass will be trying to win it themselves and will have no advantage with crazy fractions. The pace should be realistic."

Harlan's Holiday is the good horse. His record - 5 wins and 4 seconds from 9 starts - says quality. He is full of determination in the drive and very generous with his talents.

But both of these colts have crossover traits. Booklet, with his speed, is a very competitive individual. Harlan's Holiday, with his quality, has a good measure of speed and can maintain position with any pace. The ingredients are in place for a rousing Blue Grass and we look forward to another outstanding day of racing at Keeneland.

Aqueduct's Wood Memorial, starring Sunday Break, Medaglia d'Oro, Saarland, Buddha, and Blue Burner, is another attractive highlight Saturday on the national racing scene.

A fine Victory Ride

Rusty Arnold did an outstanding job in having Victory Ride, owned by Watts Humphrey, ready to win the $111,300 Madison Stakes at Keeneland the other day. A 4-year-old daughter of Seeking the Gold, Victory Ride was making her first start since she sustained a condylar fracture last summer at Saratoga after winning the Grade 1 Test Stakes.

"Dr. Larry Bramlage, an outstanding surgeon, was in Saratoga that weekend to address The Jockey Club Round Table," Arnold noted. "He operated the next morning and it turned out perfectly."

Arnold says Victory Ride will make her next start in either the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day or the Shuvee Stakes at Belmont Park on May 18.