09/28/2004 11:00PM

Tale of a 32-1 shot I absolutely loved


LAS VEGAS - When was the last time you liked a 32-1 shot? I'm not talking about a horse you threw into exactas or triples or pick threes, looking to spread your way into a big score. I'm talking about a big longshot you really liked - a horse you thought actually looked best on paper.

If you're at all like me, it doesn't happen often. In fact, even in this age of multi-signal simulcasting - when we can choose from 10 or 15 tracks per day - finding such an attractive longshot is still a rare and memorable event. But this phenomenon did occur just recently. The place: Monmouth Park. The date: Sept. 17, 2004. The race: the ninth, a maiden claimer for New Jersey-breds, six furlongs, 12 runners - a mad scramble for low-talent, less-than-reliable runners. These races are often full of value, if only you can find it. And, in this race, I thought I'd found it.

The eliminations

Classy Anthony - His recent performances had improved from being eased to earning Beyers of 21 and 32, but he finished up the track in every effort, and he showed absolutely no sign that he would continue to improve. And he would probably need to move up into the low-50's in order to contend here.

Undaunting - He'd never earned a Beyer Speed Figure above 24 in six lifetime starts - nearly all of them at this claiming level of $14,000 - $16,000.

Jersey Muscle - Pitiful recent performances, with Beyers of 0-7-0, and at an even lower claiming level.

Head of the Class - Ridiculous. A string of below-zero Beyers in four lifetime starts.

His Class - Dropping from higher maiden races, but no Beyer above 12 in four lifetime efforts.

Hearts Flashy Fire - In six starts at this level, he occasionally had run a figure in the mid-to-upper 30's. But every time he ran a 37 or 34, he bounced down to 7 or 16 next out. Still, he ran a 37 against a similar group his previous out, and he could improve. A marginal elimination - perhaps usable in the lower slots of trifectas and superfectas.

So, that eliminates half the field.

The contenders

Joseph's Aarival - Consistent recent Beyers of 53-44-46-46, but beginning to look like a professional maiden, regularly finishing second, third, and fourth at this level.

Special Heff - Earned Beyers of 54 and 45 at a much higher level back in June and July, then ran a horrible race on July 25. Now he's coming back after a seven-week layoff and dropping way down. Who knows? But a must-use.

White Sox Secret - Beyers of 38 and 40 at this level in his two lifetime starts. Marginal contender.

Jimmy Dunne's Boy - Earned Beyers of 45 and 44 as a 2-year-old last year, at a higher level. But returned to the races in June 2004 at this lower level. Ran poorly in first three starts this year, but improved to a 41 against this same company, finishing third, beaten only three lengths. Main contender.

Count the Wins - A front-runner who just earned figures of 69 and 52 in his two starts this year at the $10,000 open maiden-claiming level. Very dangerous against this crew. Odds: even money.

The bomb

Slay Ride - As a 2-year-old at Laurel, he earned Beyers of 49 and 47 at a much higher claiming level, showing much more ability than most of the runners he's facing. He returned to the races in May, running four grass races against much tougher competition. His Beyers on the turf: 48-48-48-50. His most recent grass effort intrigued me. At Colonial Downs, for a $14,500 maiden tag, he closed wide at a mile distance, earning a 50. Not a bad effort at all. He followed that with a poor performance three weeks later on Aug. 6 at the $50,000 maiden claiming level, earning a Beyer of just 16. Finally, dropped to $16,000, the horse showed tremendous improvement. His Beyer jumped to 33, earned with a very difficult trip. He rushed up from an outside post to duel the entire race, and tired only in the last sixteenth. He finished seventh, losing by six lengths.

Slay Ride showed big improvement last time out and looked to be cycling up to an even better effort. He showed some real ability (at least compared to the field he was facing here) in that mile grass race at Colonial and showed last year at Laurel that he could handle dirt sprints equally well. He opened at odds in the 16-1 range and steadily climbed, ending at 32-1, an unbelievable price. And you had a veritable smorgasbord of choices in the betting. Win. Win and place. Exacta. Trifecta. Superfecta. Late daily double. Pick three. Pick four. Probably too many choices.

As expected, the big favorite, Count the Wins, hustled out to the lead. The jockey on Slay Ride tried to keep up with him. He pushed his horse hard all the way down the backstretch in an all-out chase. Finally, at the end of the backstretch, Slay Ride couldn't keep up any longer. He fell back to third and then fourth at the top of the stretch. He looked hopelessly beaten. Then, at the quarter pole, he stopped retreating and actually began to gain a little ground against the front-runner. But Count the Wins still looked home free and the late closers would surely be coming. Slay Ride persevered, despite his early exertions. Inside the sixteenth pole, he continued to close in on the leader, then drew alongside and actually passed him in the very late stages. Unfortunately, 7-1 Jimmy Dunne's kept closing as well and joined Slay Ride in the last 50 yards. They went head and head the final few strides, until Jimmy Dunne's Boy eked out a head victory at the wire.

The bomb ran big. His Beyer: a 59. What about the parimutuel profit and loss? The bottom line? Well, why ruin such a nice story.