10/19/2006 12:00AM

There's much in Morner's favor


NEW YORK - The preps for the Breeders' Cup may be over, but that doesn't mean there aren't any good stakes races left for this weekend. Saturday, the $300,000 Raven Run at Keeneland and the $200,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup at Laurel are among the best races on the stakes schedule.

Sunday, the spotlight shifts to Woodbine, which features the $2 million Canadian International and the $1 million E. P. Taylor.

Raven Run

Speed horses are still having a very difficult time winning on Keeneland's Polytrack. I hope this is not lost on Morner's connections, because if this filly sticks with her newfound closing style, she is a worthwhile play at what should be square odds.

Morner used to be a pace player, but that has changed in her recent starts. Two races back, she rallied from off the pace to post her first stakes win in the Smart Deb at Arlington Park. Most recently, she used a similar approach to be second in the Weekend Delight. Morner faced older opponents in the Weekend Delight, finishing behind only Malibu Moon, who came back to beat a good field in last week's Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. Saturday, Morner will be back in against straight 3-year-old fillies, and that is a meaningful class drop, even at this time of year. Moreover, the Weekend Delight was run over Turfway Park's Polytrack surface, which makes Morner one of only a couple of fillies in this race with a good prior performance over such a surface.

Safely Kept Breeders' Cup

Having won three straight graded stakes races, Wildcat Bettie B is certainly the filly to beat in this spot. But when Wildcat Bettie B won the Prioress two starts back, she scored by only a neck over Wild Gams. These two meet again, and I'm going with Wild Gams, who will be a better price.

There is no question that Wild Gams's effort in the Test Stakes two starts back was subpar. I liked her that day, and she never ran a step. But her narrow win last time out over New Jersey-breds in the Eleven North Handicap at Monmouth Park was better than it might appear, because Wild Gams was floated very wide into the stretch, and then again in midstretch. Two sharp workouts since suggest that Wild Gams is cycling back to a peak performance. And her best performance, as illustrated by her win in the Cicada Stakes early in the year, is equal to Wildcat Bettie B's best race.

Canadian International

This race attracted a typically eclectic mix of U.S.-based horses, such as the in-career-form Go Deputy; a good local group headed by the streaking Sky Conqueror; and four European shippers. Blue Monday is one of those European invaders, and I like him because he has run well lately against the strongest company.

Blue Monday had a tough trip three starts back when third in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes, finishing behind BC Classic-bound David Junior, and ahead of Aussie Rules, winner of the recent Shadwell Mile, and BC Filly and Mare Turf favorite Ouija Board. Two starts back, Blue Monday finished third in the Group 1 Juddmonte International ahead of multiple Group 1 winner Dylan Thomas. And when he finally escaped such heady company last time out, Blue Monday won the Arc Trial at Newbury. But the race that suggests Blue Monday has the guts to win an event like this was his victory a year ago in the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket, in which he defeated 29 opponents. Any horse who can do that is okay in my book.