10/05/2006 12:00AM

There's much to like about Miesque's Approval


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Like many, I look forward to watching and betting on racing over Polytrack at Keeneland this fall. But it is a turf race on Saturday there that has me truly excited.

Saturday's Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, one of the top preps to the Breeders' Cup Mile, presents an interesting blend of runners from the East and West Coasts, plus an invader from Europe - Aussie Rules from the powerful Aidan O'Brien stable.

In a race with so much quality, it is easy to make a case that perhaps five of the nine runners could realistically win. The morning line similarly reflects the competitiveness of the race, with four horses between 5-2 and 4-1 odds.

I like Miesque's Approval to win, despite the fact he has never even raced in a Grade 1 race. Since joining trainer Marty Wolfson's stable late last year, this horse has excelled, scoring in 4 or 6 starts. Even his one defeat in 2006 was a banner effort - a close second-place finish to Grade 1 winner English Channel in the Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park on March 11.

Miesque's Approval's strong 2006 form will no doubt make him one of the popular choices Saturday, but my guess is that he still has some doubters that will result in his price remaining respectable. This is a horse that ran unsuccessfully for a $50,000 claiming tag last November, and even in his last two victories he has faced below-average opposition by graded stakes standards.

That questionable opposition he faced partially explains why he was 3-5 to win the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill on July 1, and slightly better than even-money to win the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth on Sept. 9.

What I liked about both of those wins is the manner in which he won. Spotting weight to his opponents, Miesque's Approval rallied from behind a slow pace to win the Firecracker, and overcame a wide trip to score in the Red Bank.

Now he returns to Keeneland, where he ran what was likely the best race of his career when he upset 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller in the April 14 Maker's Mark Mile.

Miesque's Approval simply strikes me as one of those overachieving horses that can be depended on to give his best.

Silent Name is my second selection. Winner of the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita in April, he ran third in both the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap this summer. A son of Sunday Silence, he would become much more valuable as a potential sire with a victory in the Shadwell.

He appears in position to run well, though his Beyer Speed Figures trail those of Miesque's Approval to a small degree.

Aussie Rules is the toughest horse to read. A Group 1 winner in France earlier in the year, he has since gone unplaced in four starts in group company - though he was facing some of the top milers in Europe.

What I don't like about him is that he doesn't seem to have that drive to win that Miesque's Approval possesses. That may explain why trainer Aidan O'Brien has entered him to race with blinkers for the first time. He is facing a much softer field than what he has been running against, but I question his dependability.

I have no such doubts about Miesque's Approval, who has been a gem of consistency this year.

Favorite beatable in Phoenix

Turning to the stakes contested over Polytrack on Saturday, I plan to back Areyoutalkintome in the Grade 3 Phoenix and pass betting the Breeders' Futurity.

A California invader, Areyoutalkintome may slip past the betting public a bit, despite keeping consistently good company out West in recent years. This year, for example, he was third in the Grade 2 Pat O'Brien Handicap, losing by four lengths to Siren Lure. He then came back to win the restricted Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar over millionaire Captain Squire.

His Beyer Figures match up with those of Silver Wagon, the likely favorite, and they are only a little bit behind those of Coach Jimi Lee, who owns the best recent Beyer Speed Figures in the field. At 5-1 on the morning line, he offers a bit of value.

Taking a pass on Circular Quay

The Breeders' Futurity follows the Phoenix on the card, but I view that race as a pass, given that many 2-year-olds in that race are inexperienced routing or racing on Polytrack.

Circular Quay, unbeaten in three starts, certainly looks like the real thing after winning the Bashford Manor and Hopeful, but backing him at a short price under conditions in which he has no experience seems like a dangerous move. He acts like a horse that should handle a route, but even as his trainer, Todd Pletcher, noted earlier this week, it is really hard to say which horses will handle Polytrack until they try it.

Great Hunter looks like his principal adversary, but I think that will be apparent to the betting public as well. I cannot get excited about an alternative to the top two.

For those willing to back Circular Quay at a short price, here is one thing to keep in mind. The Kentucky Cup races over the Polytrack surface at Turfway produced numerous upsets last week. Not one of the five stakes had a winner that paid less than $26.20.