04/24/2003 11:00PM

Ten Most Wanted's lofty 110 Beyer is accurate


Philadelphia- When you make a figure for the fifth race at Philadelphia Park on a Tuesday, you understand there won't be much scrutiny. You try to be as accurate as possible. Still, you realize second-guessing will be at a minimum.

When you make a giant figure for a Kentucky Derby contender in his final prep race, you understand there will be a lot of scrutiny. That is why Dennis Harp, who makes the Beyer Speed Figures for Hawthorne, consulted with Andrew Beyer and Mark Hopkins before committing to the 110 for Ten Most Wanted's win in the April 5 Illinois Derby.

Whenever a colt runs Beyers of 85-79-86-92 and then catapults to a big number, it is certainly worth a long look. And that is exactly what Harp, Beyer, and Hopkins gave Ten Most Wanted.

If you only look at the figure in the context of that race, it certainly looks high. But the Beyer figures are not computed in a vacuum. They are made in a context. And the context, in this case and in every case, is the other races run on the card that day.

Once that evidence is considered, there is little doubt. Ten Most Wanted got a 110.

The variant for the day was plus 11, meaning the track was 11 Beyer points slow (or 1.20 seconds at 1 1/8 miles, the Illinois Derby distance). The other nine races on April 5 at Hawthorne fit perfectly. The Illinois Derby did not.

Ten Most Wanted obviously ran much faster than he ever had. So did second-place finisher Fund of Funds. He got a 104, 18 points better than his Beyer top. Third finisher Foufa's Warrior got a 91, 14 points better than his best Beyer.

The dilemma was obvious. A timid figure-maker might simply have said that the Illinois Derby made no sense and "projected" that race off of what it "should" have been. Or he could have looked at the preponderance of evidence and come to the conclusion that Harp came to.

The Illinois Derby was the eighth race that day. The sixth, an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles, went to Fight for Ally. His recent Beyers were 87-94-96. His Beyer for that race was 94. He came back to win his next start and earn a 97. Fighting Indians was a length behind Fight for Ally and earned a 92. His recent Beyers were 99-95-90.

Flemish Cap won the seventh race, also at 1 1/16 miles, by nine lengths. He got a 97. He has not run back yet. The second, third, and fourth finishers got 82, 75, and 75, respectively. They have run back and earned 79, 85, and 74, respectively. Their previous Beyers all made perfect sense in relation to what they ran against Flemish Cap.

Every other race on the card was a near-perfect fit, too. If all days made as much sense, making figures would be more science than art.

Was it likely that nine other races or the Illinois Derby made no sense? Or was it more likely that, as they often do in the spring, a few 3-year-olds greatly improved?

"The first three finishers all ran better than you would expect," Beyer said. "But this is the time of the year when 3-year-olds often explode."

Beyer actually bet on Foufa's Warrior, a horse he described as having a "very tough trip at Laurel." That improvement, he said, was expected.

"And it was a long distance back to some horses who run fairly dependable figures," Beyer said.

Lone Star Sky finished fourth and got an 89 after previous Beyers of 88-91-98. Cherokee's Boy finished fifth with an 89 after getting 90-89-88 in his previous three races. He came back to win the Federico Tesio Stakes last Saturday at Pimlico with a 92.

"There were such huge gaps," Beyer said, referring to the distance between horses in the Illinois Derby.

And those gaps, four lengths from Ten Most Wanted to Fund of Funds, eight lengths between Fund of Funds and Foufa's Warrior, and almost 11 lengths from Cherokee's Boy to Lx Commander (94 Beyer in his last) and Alysweep (103 Beyer in his last), are often an indicator of a big figure.

There are, of course, precedents for this kind of early spring leaps in figures.

Just last year, War Emblem arrived at the Illinois Derby with recent Beyers of 86-85-98. He improved to a 112, and came right back with a 114 when he won the Derby.

Admittedly, the Beyers of the second, third, fourth, and fifth finishers in last year's Illinois Derby made perfect sense as well. So, there wasn't much room for second-guessing.

In 1999, Charismatic arrived at the Lexington Stakes on April 18 with recent Beyers of 94-95-94. He improved to a 108 before winning the Derby with the same 108.

This Illinois Derby, if looked at as a single race, would give any figure-maker long pause. However, if one looks at in relation to everything else that happened on the day, the conclusion is obvious.

"We just decided to go with the dope," Beyer said.

The Beyer team tried not to get too creative. The facts seemed to be taking them in a direction that might have seemed unlikely for Ten Most Wanted. But the facts are the facts.