12/12/2002 1:00AM

Still trying to beat Xtra Heat


The calendar may suggest there isn't supposed to be any serious racing this time of the year. But, the calendar is wrong.

On Saturday, Composure, who ran certain division champion Storm Flag Flying to a half-length in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and who is the second best 2-year-old filly in the country, commands top billing in the Grade 1, $200,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes. The Starlet is part of a stakes doubleheader at Hollywood Park, with the Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap.

Also on Saturday, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, Xtra Heat, makes her first start for new ownership in the $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct. Fair Grounds stages Louisiana Champions Day, a program of six stakes races worth $650,000 for Louisiana breds. Calder will present a pair of stakes races for 2-year olds, the What a Pleasure and Three Ring Stakes, each worth $100,000. And, Laurel Park has a graded race Saturday, the Grade 3, $100,000 Anne Arundel.

Still, thanks to the presence of Composure, who overwhelmed her field in the Oak Leaf before her strong performance in the Breeders' Cup, the Starlet is Saturday's most important race. That doesn't mean it's a great betting race, unless you love eating chalk, and find 2-5 or less on Composure a thrill. For those of us who don't, there are alternatives.

Pupil in the Anne Arundel

Of all the places Jerry Bailey could ride on Saturday, he's scheduled to be at Laurel aboard To the Queen in the Anne Arundel. That's good. To the Queen has been favored in her last seven starts in New York, Kentucky, and Florida, and with Bailey aboard, she will be an even lower price here. To the Queen has won four straight, but will face better here. And, with no edge in the Beyer Speed Figure department, she's a bet-against.

I like Pupil, who looks ready to reward her judicious handling she has received. Pupil won by a pole last time out, hasn't been worse than second in her six starts, and has a pedigree (by Unbridled, from a Known Fact mare) that says she will love a wet track, which she has an excellent chance of getting.

In addition to Pupil, I would also include Desert Gold and Pass the Virtue in exotic wagers. The beautifully bred Desert Gold has also been given lots of time to develop, and the fact that she ships from Kentucky off two overnight victories suggests strong stable confidence. Pass the Virtue signaled a return to top form with a runaway win at the distance over the track last time out.

Dat You Miz Blue could upset Garland of Roses

Xtra Heat, who was beaten only five lengths in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last time out, and who beat males in Keeneland's Phoenix two starts back, will be 3-5 at best here. She may well win like a 3-5 shot, too. But, since I've yet to make a bet on her, I'm not going to start now in her 33rd career start.

I'll take Dat You Miz Blue to pull off the upset. Dat You Miz Blue has not been entirely trustworthy throughout her career. But, the two areas where she is the most reliable are on Aqueduct's inner track, over which she has won 5 of 7 starts, and on a wet surface, over which she is 3 for 5, and earned her career best Beyer of 114. They're racing on the inner track at Aqueduct now, and with rain in the forecast, Dat You Miz Blue may well get her footing.

Consider Piensa Sonando in Native Diver

Euchre is a tough old horse who could win this purely on memory. At the same time, he has lacked the will to win this year, going 0 for 8 with four seconds. And, since he may have lost a step, he is unattractive as the favorite.

So, I'll go with Piensa Sonando, an import from Chile who ran a 24-second final quarter-mile to win an optional claimer at one mile last time out in his second start in this country. That big finish says Piensa Sonando will appreciate the added distance he gets on Saturday.

Grey Memo must also be used here. He suitably stretches back out in distance, also gets pace to rally into, and his 4 for 12 record at Hollywood Park compared to his 4 for 29 record elsewhere illustrates how much he loves the track.