12/30/2004 1:00AM

Take two shots in each leg of pick four

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Key horses to use in the all-stakes pick four at Calder include Crown Point (above) in the Tropical Park Derby, Passing Shot in the Stage Door Betty, and Dansetta Light in the Tropical Park Oaks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Calder has four stakes on its 12-race card Saturday - giving bettors an incentive to play more than just football on New Year's Day. Best yet, the four stakes make up a pick four with a $250,000 guaranteed pool, providing an opportunity to go after a fat payoff without having to analyze some unfathomable contest for cheap runners. Here's a quick look at the four stakes:

The ninth race, the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby, is the first leg of the pick four. A 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, it presents a challenge for handicappers. Local horses are being tested against shippers from all over the country, even one from Europe. That horse, Medigating, comes into this race after having run eight times in France, where three times he earned Timeform ratings of 100 or more.

Others, such as Magna Graduate and Stormy Jim, have shown class on the main track, but have not yet tried the grass. Magna Graduate ran fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club, while Stormy Jim was fourth in the Remsen.

Although they have the benefit of prior graded stakes experience, I favor those with established turf form: Exceptional Ride (No. 6) and Crown Point (5). Both are stakes winners on turf.

Exceptional Ride, my top selection, has blossomed since being placed on grass, running third in an allowance at Keeneland and winning two races at Churchill during the fall meet. One of those victories came in the Grand Canyon Stakes, when he rallied from last to first under Brice Blanc.

Crown Point was beaten 8 1/2 lengths by Exceptional Ride in that race, but the circumstances of the race were not in his favor. He shipped to Kentucky from New York and caught Exceptional Ride over his home course. He also may have struggled due to the soggy conditions.

If able to catch a firm course, Crown Point should move forward.

The Tropical Park Oaks follows next, and it also has several invaders. The horses to beat, though, all have experience over the Calder grass course.

Brazilian earned a 90 Beyer in winning her maiden Nov. 22, a race that suggests she has a highly promising future. But she gives up seasoning to Dansetta Light (3) and Rich in Spirit (6), a pair of stakes winners on turf.

Rich in Spirit deserves a slight edge, having beaten Dansetta Light by a length when they met in November. Little separates the two, however, and for that matter, the rest of the field. Dynamite Lass, a filly unbeaten in two starts, is another contender, and Dynamist also looks capable if she is able to draw in from the also-eligible list.

Personal Legend (3) will be a single on many tickets in the next leg, the Stage Door Betty Handicap. That's understandable - she is a Bobby Frankel-trained graded stakes winner being ridden by Jerry Bailey.

I'm reluctant to single her, however, given that only 4 of her 17 races have come on dirt, the surface on which the Stage Door Betty will be run. She also has little early speed.

Passing Shot (5) will also be on my pick four ticket. She is dropped into an ungraded stakes race by trainer Allen Jerkens, who is 4 for 5 this winter at Calder. She exits nine consecutive graded stakes.

The pick four closes with the Happy New Year, a five-furlong dash on grass for 3-year-old fillies. The race has a number of unknowns - just three of the nine entrants have run on grass. Only one has raced in a turf sprint.

Elke (1A), the lone filly stakes-placed on turf, is the choice. She also has trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez in her corner. She is coupled with Madison Dollie, another contender.

Of those trying turf for the first time, I like Running Bobcats (6). She has advanced to become a stakes winner after beginning her career at the maiden $12,500 level over the summer at Calder. Her humble beginnings should continue to make her an overlay. Offspring of her sire, Running Stag, have won 2 of 14 starts when trying grass for the first time.

Barring scratches, my pick four ticket will use two horses in each race, resulting in a $16 play. I will bet a $1 pick four: 6,5 with 6,3 with 3,5 with 1,6.