11/17/2005 12:00AM

Standard rules don't apply in Prevue

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For the first time in four years, the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue on Saturday at Hollywood Park, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds, shapes up as something other than a lopsided affair.

It was not the case in the 2004 Prevue, when Del Mar Futurity winner Declan's Moon returned from a two-month layoff and cruised at 2-5.

In 2003, high-figure maiden winner Lion Heart romped by six lengths at odds of 1-2. Even in 2002, bettors hammered Roll Hennessy Roll to even-money and watched him win by four. But whereas Declan's Moon and Lion Heart were stars, this year's Prevue is muddled.

Bengal Lore's 90 Beyer Speed Figure makes him the high-figure horse, though he may find seven furlongs too far. Old Thunder enters off an eight-length maiden win, albeit with an ordinary 83 Beyer. Da Stoops goes route to sprint; Your Tent or Mine was green as grass winning his debut with a 73 Beyer; The Pharaoh may prefer shorter; and The Five J's is too slow.

It makes you wonder: Where have all the good 2-year-olds gone?

Some are aiming to the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 17, including Brother Derek and A.P. Warrior, the early Futurity favorites; Bob and John and Only in Louisiana, who are not fast but are lightly raced and sure to improve; and Bashert, who this week had his first three-furlong breeze in two months. California's best 2-year-old, Stevie Wonderboy, returns in 2006.

The Prevue is a good time to step up, particularly since the cancellation of turf racing has affected the 2-year-old division and ultimately weakened the Prevue. In lieu of the Autumn Turf Festival, Hollywood added two 1 1/16-mile stakes for 2-year-olds: the Real Quiet and, for fillies, the Sharp Cat. The races stretch an inventory that is already thin.

The new races mean that in a one-week span, three West Coast stakes will compete for the same pool of allowance- and stakes-caliber 2-year-olds: the seven-furlong Prevue at Hollywood on Saturday; the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet at Hollywood on Nov. 26; and the six-furlong Mill Valley at Golden Gate Fields on Nov. 26. Fillies face a similar dilemma. The seven-furlong Moccasin on Sunday competes with the 1 1/16-mile Sharp Cat on Nov. 27.

There are barely enough horses to generate meaningful interest in the upcoming local stakes. Relative to the bountiful nominations for similar races at Churchill Downs, it makes you wonder if all the good 2-year-olds are somewhere East.

The Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs attracted 36 original nominations; the Real Quiet on Nov. 26 at Hollywood Park attracted 11. The Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs attracted 26 nominations; the Sharp Cat on Nov. 27 at Hollywood attracted 17.

California trainer Bob Baffert entered Hollywood fall loaded with potential, and his weekend starters - Da Stoops in the Prevue, Cotton Bay and Babe Hall in the Moccasin - figure prominently.

Although the small field size in the Prevue limits wagering potential, the handicapping exercise is worthwhile. Who knows? There could be a short-price overlay in the field.

One of Daily Racing Form's goals is to include Beyer Figure pars in the past performances. Until then, handicappers must find the information themselves in places such as The American Racing Manual, which includes Beyer Speed Figures for past graded stakes. Over the past 10 years, the median Beyer for a Prevue winner is 97.

It is a guideline number. A Prevue starter that has run 97, or within 5 points, qualifies on speed. Unfortunately, the top figure in this year's Prevue is 90. No starter qualifies.

Old Thunder (83) and Your Tent or Mine (72) will be discounted because of low figures. Speed figures, however, are less important in races where the entire field is below par. Bettors who like maiden winners Old Thunder or Your Tent or Mine for other reasons will be compensated by higher odds.

Six starts into his career, Bengal Lore has topped out at 90. He is a good, fast horse who is possibly limited to six furlongs. The Pharaoh's top number was earned in a 4 1/2-furlong race. There is doubt he can reproduce it at seven furlongs.

Da Stoops established his current ability racing a mile last out. He set a wicked pace for six furlongs (1:10.12) before weakening to finish third. He earned a Tom Brohamer-generated Quirin-style pace figure of 108. A pace figure, in a sense, is a speed figure to the pace call. The Quirin-style Prevue par is about 106. For six furlongs of the one-mile allowance, Da Stoops exceeded par.

With a career-best Beyer of 89, Da Stoops does not qualify for Prevue victory on final time. But going two turns last time out, his "race within a race" exceeds par and makes him one of the most probable winners on the Saturday card.