10/05/2007 12:00AM

Spinster's the spot to go deep in pick four

Emailf you like pick fours and graded stakes races, you will be happy to learn that Keeneland and Oak Tree at Santa Anita are teaming up on Sunday to offer the $500,000-guaranteed Breeders' Cup Challenge all-stakes pick four, a $1 bet that includes Keeneland's Grade 1 Spinster, and Santa Anita's Grade 1 Ancient Title, Grade 1 Lady's Secret, and Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile.

The races at Santa Anita have small fields, and can be narrowed down from there, so if there is betting value to be found, the best place to look for it is probably the Spinster, which has an 11-horse field. But handicappers will have to find a way to get past Lady Joanne in that race. She has won 5 of her last 6 races, including the Grade 1 Alabama, and finished a close second in the race she lost.

But there is also an argument that can be made against Lady Joanne. She will be battling older rivals Sunday, and this field is both stronger and deeper than the ones she beat in her two previous wins over older fillies and mares. Her first victory was against four opponents in a second-level allowance at Churchill, and she beat just three opponents in the restricted Banshee Breeze.

If an upset is in the cards, there are seven contenders who might be able to pull it off. Rolling Sea has won 5 of her last 7, including the Grade 2 Distaff at Pimlico. She prepped for this race with a facile 10 3/4-length win with a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 at Prairie Meadows in her return from a break of nearly three months. Any improvement second time back would make her formidable.

Asi Siempre won the Spinster last year, and shows seven top-three finishes from her last 11 races vs. graded stakes company. She crossed the wire second before being disqualified to fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last year. And she likes Keeneland's Polytrack, over which she is 2 for 2.

Naissance Royale has raced on turf exclusively, but has finished among the top three in 7 of 8 graded stakes starts, and can win this race if she handles the move to Polytrack. Panty Raid has won 3 of her last 4, including a win over older rivals on turf in the Grade 1 American Oaks. She was favored over Lady Joanne in the Alabama, but finished fifth. A return to form would make her a serious threat.

Sugar Shake was far back when she finished fourth of six last time, but she is capable of a much better performance and must be considered. Teammate perked up with a contending third in the Grade 1 Ruffian and can be a factor if she continues on the upswing. Altesse has finished in the exacta in each of her last seven races, and earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 95 last time.

The Lady's Secret looks much easier. Hystericalady should be able to get the job done with anything resembling a typical recent performance. She deserves to be singled.

There are six runners in the Oak Tree Mile. I'll go two deep. Lava Man will attract plenty of support, but he has lost 3 of his last 4, so it will be a good idea to have a backup for him in case he doesn't rebound from his dull sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic. Although Surf Cat has never raced on turf, he has trained well on it and has the talent to win if he runs his race. He is my top choice.

The field of five in the Ancient Title can probably be boiled down to Greg's Gold and Bordonaro, so I will use both of them. A return to top form would give Bordonaro the advantage, but it is a concern that he finished third or worse in his last three starts, including a last-place finish behind Greg's Gold in the Pat O'Brien, his most recent race. An argument can also be made for Idiot Proof, who earned a career-best Beyer of 113 when he broke the track record, running six furlongs in 1:07.47 at Monmouth, in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes. The concern is that he had not run anywhere near as fast as that before that race, and he regressed to a low 73 Beyer while finishing a nonthreatening third as the 3-10 favorite vs. California-breds next time out at Del Mar.

The 7x1x2x2 ticket will cost $28 on a $1 bet.