05/25/2006 11:00PM

Three track bias victim horses to watch


LEXINGTON, KY. - For many sensible people a night filled with tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms means taking shelter in the basement, or in a closet

near the middle of the house for safety. Unfortunately, as a native Californian I underestimated the benefits of buying a house with a basement when I moved to Kentucky. Given the choice between spending the night in a closet, and doing something more productive, I'll take my chances with the weather and study the result charts from May 18 through Wednesday from Churchill while rooting for the power to stay on throughout the night.

Churchill's main track is considered to be fairer to all running styles than most dirt tracks, but that isn't the same thing as being fair. During the five racing days I studied, the first-call leader won 23.7 percent of the races on the dirt. The horses that were second at that point of the race won 13.1 percent of those races. That adds up to nearly 37 percent winners, which is a pretty healthy win rate.

There were two days that were exceptions to that trend. On May 19, only one of the 16 horses that were first or second at the first call in the eight dirt races won (another was disqualified, as he deserved to be).

Keep an eye on Camp Conley, who ran in the sixth race, a six-furlong $15,000 N2L. She had defeated $7,500 maiden claimers by only a half-length in her debut at Turfway in March, and would have to improve to contend on the class raise in this race.

Camp Conley broke a couple of lengths behind the leaders, rushed up to be only a head behind the leader through a 21.84-second opening quarter, then grabbed the lead between calls. She lost ground and position and appeared to be done, but re-rallied and finished fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths as a 15-1 outsider. Factor in the track bias and she should be able to participate in the exotics at a square price if she returns in a similar field. A class drop, or a slower field at the same class level would make her a threat to win.

Leah's Secret was a convincing front-running winner of a maiden special at Keeneland on April 23 as she returned from a layoff of a year and a day. Would she bounce on the jump into a first-level allowance, the stretchout from six furlongs to a mile second-time back from the long layoff? Bettors were not optimistic while making her the sixth betting choice at 10-1 in the eighth race on May 19.

Leah's Secret led most of the way, was passed at the top of the stretch, re-rallied on the rail to take a short lead, then was outkicked late and finished third, beaten by two lengths. The two fillies that beat her were closers who rallied from fifth, and seventh, respectively, in that eight-horse field. A more speed-favoring track will give her a chance to beat a similar group next time.

Only one of the 14 horses that were first or second at the first call in the seven dirt races last Wednesday won. Whopper Victory, a Chilean import, was a closer in a sprint when he made his first U.S. start on May 4. He showed much more early speed when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in an $80,000 optional claiming race on May 24. He dueled most of the way, then gave way grudgingly and finished second, beaten a half-length. The winner was a closer who had been fifth at the first call in that six-horse field. Whopper Victory can beat comparable foes on a day when horses with early speed are not fighting a bias.