08/31/2006 12:00AM

Suave to spring Woodward upset


NEW YORK - Tropical Storm Ernesto threatens to throw a big monkey wrench into the start of the Labor Day weekend of racing by dumping rain at tracks up and down the Eastern seaboard. It seems almost unavoidable that the storm will have an impact on Saturday's Grade 1 stakes doubleheader at Saratoga that comprises the Woodward and the Forego, and it could mess up the turf feature at Monmouth Park, where the Red Bank Handicap is the headliner. The storm already forced Delaware Park to reschedule the Kent Breeders' Cup to Sept. 9. It will, however, be sunny at Del Mar, where the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap shares center stage with the El Cajon Stakes, which marks the return of Brother Derek.

Woodward Stakes

The Flower Alley of 2005 or the Sun King of Aug. 5, 2006 would be hard to handle in this race. There is, however, reason to believe that neither will show up on Saturday. Flower Alley was terrific winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga last summer and later finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic. But after taking a long time to make it back to the races, he didn't run fast in either of his starts this year, and was alarmingly empty when seventh in the Whitney. Flower Alley is entitled to rebound off of one bad race, but how good he is right now is a question, and he's not an appealing betting option at low odds. As for Sun King, he ran his heart out just missing in the Whitney earlier in this Saratoga meet. But the last time he earned a Beyer Speed Figure as strong as he got in the Whitney, he followed with a flat performance.

I'm going with Suave. He regained top form with a runaway win last time out in the Washington Park Handicap, and he can take another step forward in what will be his third start off a layoff. He likes the track, and will be in striking position from the start.

Florida Stallion Susan's Girl

Pretoria Light might have been a surprise at 20-1 when she won her debut at Calder, but her performance was eye-catching, and she is taken to score right back. She ran away from her field in the final furlong to win by seven lengths, and galloped out strongly past the wire. That bodes well for a successful stretch out from five to seven furlongs on Saturday.

As visually impressive as Pretoria Light was, and with the 75 Beyer Figure she earned, which is co-highest in this field, she won't be anywhere near the 20-1 she was against nonwinners. But the thinking is she will still be an acceptable price. Graeme Central was favored over eight opponents at Saratoga when she won her only start, and even though that was over New York-breds, a victory at Saratoga figures to strongly influence the betting public in this spot.

Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap

Polyfirst might have surprised people when she won the Osunitas Handicap last time out at 13-1, but she is the play to score again. Polyfirst's big effort in the Osunitas was also the first time in her North American career in which she was able to come from off the pace going a middle distance, and she responded with a big finish that resulted in a going-away score. Polyfirst gets another favorable pace setup Saturday, especially with Mea Domina marooned in the 10 post. Mea Domina, who was the beaten favorite in the Osunitas, is going to have to be sent from that outside post, which means Polyfirst should be able again to relax early, get a fair pace to rally into, and make the most of her closing kick.


Calder: Florida Stallion Susan's Girl
Fillies, 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs

Approximate post: Eastern-4:37 p.m., Central-3:37 p.m., Mountain-2:37 p.m., Pacific-1:37 p.m.; Miami, Fl., forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, 87¦

1Pretoria Light75--9-2
2Torch Lake65285012-1
3Graeme Central72--4-1
5Perfect Lie3268-15-1
6Snow Lady6161656-1
9Unbridled Ambiance5761-8-1

Track morning line odds

Saratoga: Woodward Stakes
3 and up, 1 1/8 miles

Approximate post: E-5:15 p.m., C-4:15 p.m., M-3:15 p.m., P-2:15 p.m.; Saratoga Springs, N. Y., forecast: Rain likely, 67¦

1Wild Desert8710510210-1
2Papi Chullo1019610820-1
4Naughty New Yorker92918730-1
5Sun King113961123-1
6Flower Alley98991115-2
7Second of June939410812-1
8Premium Tap1011029120-1
9Andromeda's Hero9210310015-1
10Funny Cide9693968-1
11Wanderin Boy9810510615-1

Odds by Art Gropper

Del Mar: Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-8:30 p.m., C-7:30 p.m., M-6:30 p.m., P-5:30 p.m.; Del Mar, Ca., forecast: Sunny, 79¦

1Three Degrees9567968-1
3Star Parade989710810-1
5Island Fashion92n/a845-1
6Sharp Lisa9394848-1
8Shining Energ593924-1
10Mea Domina95102997-2
Also eligible:
11Bond Deal91907720-1
12Lock and Key96908420-1

Coupled: Bond Deal and Lock and Key; odds by Michael Hammersly