06/13/2007 11:00PM

Take D' Tour to benefit if Belmont bias holds


ELMONT, N.Y. - Take D' Tour is back to defend her title in Saturday's Ogden Phipps, a race she wired last year, and her connections would surely love to see Belmont's main track continue to favor speed as strongly as it has the past several days.

From race 5 on Sunday through race 4 on Thursday, a total of 11 races were run on the main track. Eight of them were won in front-running style, and not a single winner was worse than second at the first call, with very little position change behind the leaders in most instances.

In race 4 on Wednesday, Norman's Good Boy wired a field of New York-bred maiden claimers, and 95-1 shot Passing Dream chased from the rail throughout to hold the place spot.

In race 3 on Thursday, the 18-1 shot Mt Langfuhr grabbed the lead and the rail, and Short Fuse Tara simply couldn't get by at 3-5, even though she had the length of the stretch to do so. A race later, Snuff Box, also 18-1, led all the way, with 6-5 favorite Fiddlers Warrior giving futile chase.

Last year's running of the Ogden Phipps was not stellar, but neither is this one. Besides Take D' Tour, the filly coming off the best last-out Beyer Speed Figure is Ginger Punch, who won a second-level allowance in the mud on the Kentucky Derby undercard with a 96, well below par (106) for this race, which dates back to 1990. Bushfire is a three-time Grade 1 winner, but has somehow accomplished that feat while never running a fast race. Promenade Girl's claim to fame is a win in the slop in the Molly Pitcher last year, and she just ran third in an ungraded stakes first time out in 2007. Teammate is a nice filly, but was life-and-death to win the slowest Shuvee since the Beyers have been published.

From the standpoint of form patterns, Miss Shop is interesting as she goes turf to dirt, and comes back on short rest after finishing last of five in last week's Just a Game. She ran a similar nonthreatening race in the Honey Fox on turf earlier this year at Gulfstream Park, and returned a week later to win the Rampart in her best performance to date.

NTRA pick fours offer enormous value

For the past couple of years, the Ogden Phipps was part of an NTRA national pick four along with the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis from Churchill Downs, and the Californian from Hollywood Park. That is not the case this year, as Churchill offers a $250,000-guaranteed pick four on its own races, throwing in the Mint Julep and the Regret, a pair of Grade 3 turf stakes.

Wheeling the Stephen Foster has been a productive strategy in recent years. Although that got you Saint Liam at $3.80 in 2005, wheeling was probably the only way to come up with Colonial Colony ($127.20) in 2004, and the even more improbable Seek Gold ($185.40) last year.

Whether pick-four sequences on big-race days are chalky, downright impossible, or somewhere in between, they almost invariably offer bettors superior value. The NTRA pick four in 2005 contained two odds-on winners, Saint Liam in the Stephen Foster and Ashado ($3.70) in the Ogden Phipps, along with the very logical controlling speed Two Trail Sioux ($9.80) in the Fleur de Lis, and the up-and-comer Lava Man ($19.40) in the Californian. Even so, the pick four came back $908 for $2, nearly three times the win parlay of $334.

More recently, there were three pick fours on Belmont Stakes Day. The first one on races 2-5 was bookended by favorites Prom Party ($5.60) and Meribel ($5.50), and in between were second choices Papi Chullo ($5.40) and Berry Bound ($7.60) - nothing terribly difficult, but the $2 payoff ($259) far exceeded the win parlay ($158).

The $1 million guaranteed all-stakes pick four was considerably tougher, but the $2 payoff for coming up with Teuflesberg ($18.20), Cotton Blossom ($14.60), Better Talk Now ($8.70), and Rags to Riches ($10.60) paid $5,472, compared to a parlay worth $3,063.

The third pick four on races 10-13 consisted of all second choices in the wagering, and returned $770, marginally better than the parlay ($726).

Below is my preliminary plan for Churchill's pick four. I'll need to hit at least two (any two) of my key runners.

Mint Julep - Main ticket: Danzon; back-ups: Quite a Bride, Aunt Henny.

Fleur de Lis - Main ticket: Asi Siempre, Ermine; backup: Indian Vale.

Stephen Foster - Main ticket: Master Command, Magna Graduate; backups: Diamond Stripes, Flashy Bull.

Regret - Main ticket: Dreaming of Anna, Swingit, Dawn After Dawn; backups: Luna Dorada, Good Mood, Communique.