11/29/2002 12:00AM

A Thanksgiving present for chalk haters


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Churchill's 11-race Thanksgiving Day program was one of the most interesting betting cards offered at this fall meet. There were a number of favorites who came into their races with questions to answer, and value-seekers who tried to beat them had many reasons to be thankful when 10 of the 11 lost.

Dyna My Darlin looked best on paper in the first race, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special. But her first four career starts were all turf races, and her last race was a non-threatening third-place finish in the slop in her first race on the dirt. It was anyone's guess as to how she would fare in her first race on a fast track. Bettors were a bit overconfident when they gave her the benefit of the doubt, and made her the 8-5 favorite. Dance to Dawn, who had finished three positions and 5 3/4 lengths behind Dyna My Darlin in the slop, improved considerably on the dry track, and beat her by 12 1/4 lengths. Dyna My Darlin was fortunate to prevail by a nose in the photo for second.

Trail of Gold, who had lost at low odds on the class drop from $50,000 to $30,000, and then again for $25,000 and $10,000, looked like a bet-against on the dip down to $8,000 today. But she turned out to be the lone winning favorite on the card when she scored by 6 3/4 lengths at 4-5 in the second race.

Testify was the preferred half of the Randy Morse entry that was favored in the third, a five-furlong allowance race on the turf. He had lost two straight as the favorite, then headed for the shelf. This would be his first race since July 7, and Morse showed only 8 percent winners and a low $0.63 ROI from a sample of 24 runners returning from layoffs ranging from two through six months. Testify finished third, while Abderian, who had won two straight, including a stakes at Arlington last time, won as the second betting choice at $8.60.

The Steve Asmussen entry of Bellengrath and Wild Flower were favored at 6-5 in the fourth, a $30,000 claiming race for 2-year-old fillies. But Fighting Skinny had earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure last time that was 15 points higher than Wild Flower's last-race Beyer and 16 points better than Bellengrath's last number. It was also higher than the career-best numbers of both of those fillies. At 5-1, Fighting Skinny was the betting value. The good news was that Fighting Skinny beat both halves of the entry, who finished third and fourth. But the bad news was that Fighting Skinny finished second behind Tally Slew, the $17 upset winner.

Tippity Witch was the 2-1 favorite in the fifth, a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the turf for fillies and mares. But she showed no wins this year or last year while going 0 for 17. Hi Tech Honeycomb had overcome a slower-than-par pace in a win on the grass at Churchill on Nov. 11, and showed a 4-2-1-0 local record. She proved best, and paid $8.60. Tippity Witch finished second.

Speciality was the 2-1 choice in the sixth, a $50,000 maiden claiming race for 2-year-old fillies. She had shown a preference for minor placings while finishing third, fourth twice, fifth, and sixth, all at single-digit odds, in her first five races. She had also given no indication that she would like the seven furlong distance. Speciality was in contention, then faded to finish fifth. My congratulations go out to anyone who was clever enough to pick 17-1 winner Southeaster, or 22-1 second-place finisher Slammin' Lil.

Talk's Cheap, the 2-1 favorite in the seventh, a 1 1/16-mile, $20,000 claiming race, had finished ninth, beaten by 24 1/4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite last time at Keeneland. He ran a better race this time, but settled for second behind second betting choice Mt Ouray, who returned $7.20.

Tarzan Cry had required layoffs following five of his seven races in the U.S., and was coming off a seven-month break in a one-mile, $62,500 optional claiming race on the turf. That didn't bother the bettors who made him the 9-5 favorite. He finished third, then was moved up to second with help from a disqualification.

Fly Borboleta was good enough to be a serious threat in the ninth, a two-other-than allowance, but she had lost four straight, including a race at this same class level as the 4-5 favorite last time. She finished fourth as the 2-1 choice.

Take Charge Lady would have been hard to deny in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Falls City Handicap with a return to form, but she had beaten only two opponents while sixth, 13 1/2 lengths behind Azeri, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The 89 Beyer she earned in that race placed her ahead of only one opponent - 43-1 longshot Due to Win. Take Charge Lady settled for second at 4-5 behind Allamerican Bertie, who was at the top of her game, and loved Churchill with a 3-2-0-1 record.

Cielo's Garden figured to improve on the drop into a $20,000 claiming race in the 11th race, but he had finished fourth or worse in each of his last four, and was a deep closer cutting back from

1 1/16 miles to 7 1/2 furlongs on a track that usually favors early and tactical speed. He rallied from eighth to finish third at 2-1 behind Guppie's Secret, who overcame traffic trouble to win at 6-1.