08/13/2008 11:00PM

Take Satan's Circus vs. Storm Mesa


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bettors were not quite sure what to expect from Storm Mesa when she raced on turf in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar July 26. Untested on the grass and seemingly at a disadvantage being a front-runner in a field loaded with pace, she was let go at 7.80-1 odds.

Then down the backstretch, when she was shut off and steadied behind another rival, falling back to sixth, she looked more like a horse that had at best a 20-1 chance of winning.

But showing a new dimension, she waited for her moment to go after the leaders, and after finding room at the top of the stretch, surged to a 1 1/4-length victory in a flashy performance.

That is precisely the reason why I intend to bet against her Saturday in the Del Mar Oaks. Although I, too, found her race visually impressive, it turned too many heads, and even in the past performances the trouble she experienced leaps out.

Storm Mesa is a contender, but she has the look of a horse that is going to get hammered in the wagering after winning off a troubled trip. Despite my respect for her, I would rather take a shot with a horse that should hopefully offer a bit more value: Satan's Circus.

Satan's Circus, by comparison, had a relatively clean run in her last start, albeit in a much classier race than the San Clemente.

Satan's Circus last raced in Hollywood Park's Grade 1 American Oaks, a $750,000 race that ranks as one of the toughest races of the year for 3-year-old turf fillies. And she nearly won it, running second of 12, finishing three-quarters of a length behind Pure Clan, one of the leaders of the division.

Making her performance all the more impressive was that she was making her first start in the U.S. in the American Oaks after previously racing in France, and she was stretching out from a mile to 1 1/4 miles.

With the benefit of a race in California, and cutback to 1 1/8 miles for the Del Mar Oaks, she should be even more effective for her new trainer, Christophe Clement, who takes over for her French trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget.

Satan's Circus seems the class of the race, and with Storm Mesa taking heavy action off a troubled-trip, Satan's Circus will likely start at a tick or two higher on the odds board than she should.

Disregard Golden Yank's works

Golden Yank's virtues are apparent in Saturday's $100,000 Super Derby Prevue Stakes at Louisiana Downs. A two-time stakes winner on the main track, he is being returned to dirt after a runner-up finish in a swiftly run Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs on turf - a race in which he chased subsequent American Derby winner and Secretariat third-place finisher Tizdejavu.

But because he is coming off a two-month layoff and showing half-mile works of 52.40 seconds, 50.60, and 52.80 leading up to this start, I'm hopeful at least some bettors will avoid him, reasoning that he is not training like a horse ready to win a stakes race.

I won't be one of those avoiding him. The time of a horse's workouts must always be viewed relative to the horse and the style of the trainer. There are horses that simply go through the motions in the mornings, and some trainers regularly choose to have their horses train moderately, with little regard for time.

That is the style of Gary Thomas, who trains Golden Yank. In preparing Greeley's Conquest for a victory in the Aug. 2 Prairie Meadows Sprint - a race in which the horse earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for racing six furlongs in 1:08.20 - Thomas worked him easy half miles of 51.40 and 49.80.

Golden Yank at times has made those morning times appear swift. Before his second to Tizdejavu in the Jefferson Cup, he worked five furlongs in 1:06.20 at Lone Star, and nine times in his career he has worked a half-mile in 52 seconds or slower.

Golden Yank is training in preparation for the Super Derby Prevue as he always has - at least in terms of time. Expect him to maintain his sharp form.

Unforgotten gets positive surface switch

The signature race of the Ellis Park meet - Saturday's Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap - drew just seven runners, and without a clear standout, there is balance to the field.

My choice is Unforgotten, the 4-1 third choice on them morning line. Invading from Saratoga, where she was ninth behind race winner Carriage Trail in the De La Rose Handicap July 30 on turf, she should turn in an improved performance over her best surface, dirt.

On dirt, she was second two starts ago in the Golden Sylvia Handicap at Mountaineer June 17. She also won the Goddess Stakes on dirt at Delta Downs in March and placed in the Truly Bound and Chou Croute Stakes at Fair Grounds over the winter.