09/27/2006 11:00PM

Speed types will set up 'Weather'

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The road to the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup takes a serious turn Saturday with major prep races all over the country. There are three Grade 1 stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita - the Yellow Ribbon, Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship, and the Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup. There's the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions at Turfway Park, headed by the Kentucky Cup Classic; the Hawthorne Gold Cup; and the Kelso Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park.

Kentucky Cup Sprint

There is just a ton of early speed in this race, and back in the old days at Turfway Park, that might not have mattered. When Turfway had a conventional dirt track, speed was often king on big race days there, even in races packed with front-runners. But this will be only the second Kentucky Cup on Turfway's Polytrack, and while speed can indeed win on Polytrack - in fact, Estate Collection went wire to wire in this race last year - it will be doubly tough with the amount of early zip in this race. I want a closer, and Changing Weather is the one.

Changing Weather has not raced since being badly outrun by Henny Hughes in the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup on July 1, but that's okay. First, Henny Hughes followed that romp with another in the King's Bishop, and he is potentially the best sprinter in the nation. As for the layoff, Changing Weather's best performance came off an identical absence. That was his win two starts back in the Matt Winn, in which he edged Court Folly.

Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup

There is no question that Point Ashley is tons the best on paper here. She dominated the Del Mar Debutante last time out, she is bred to relish the stretch-out to two turns, and the 91 Beyer Speed Figures she earned in her last two races are the highest in the field. But the luck of the draw was not kind to Point Ashley, as she drew post 11. It is certainly possible that Point Ashley is simply so much better than her competition that her post won't matter. At a short price, however, I'll try to tip Point Ashley over with Tonja's World.

Tonja's World is coming into this off only a win over maidens. That win, however, was by almost 11 lengths around two turns at Del Mar, and in her first start wearing blinkers. In truth, the 75 Beyer Speed Figure she earned in that win suggests she is about eight lengths slower than Point Ashley, but Tonja's World certainly has a right to get better. And since Tonja's World will be a much bigger price than Point Ashley, projects to get a better trip, and is already a winner around two turns, she's worth a flyer.

Kentucky Cup Classic

In the belief that Perfect Drift isn't quite as effective as he used to be, and that Premium Tap's surprising win in the Woodward Stakes last time out was due to a speed-biased racetrack, I'm going with Good Reward, even if I am running the risk of sticking with a horse too long.

I liked Good Reward in the Brooklyn Breeders' Cup Handicap in his last start, and couldn't have been more wrong. Although the program scratch of Take the Bluff compromised Good Reward in the Brooklyn because it left eventual winner Wanderin Boy in control of the pace, Good Reward was still profoundly dull, finishing fifth. But it is possible he regressed from his second to Lava Man in the Pacific Classic two starts back, and I like that trainer Shug McGaughey is wheeling Good Reward back on relatively short rest. There is enough pace in this race to set up Good Reward's late run, and being a grinding type who is a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner on turf, he is a good candidate to take to the Polytrack.