06/27/2001 11:00PM

The thrill remains, but the value is gone


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Some bettors believe Lazy Slusan is a cinch in the Vanity Handicap on Saturday at Hollywood Park. They may be right.

Lazy Slusan's form suggests something unforeseen must occur for her to lose. She already has won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita and Grade 1 Milady this spring, and had a valid excuse for her only recent defeat. From post 10 in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, she raced wide throughout and lost by only five lengths. It was a winning effort, and winning is now Lazy Slusan's habit.

It appears no filly or mare in California can touch Lazy Slusan on the main track. But there is a problem, which is no fault of hers. It is that Lazy Slusan's rise to prominence is now complete, and as a consequence she no longer offers betting value. She is no longer on the way up; she has arrived. It took her 44 starts, and getting there was half the fun.

Lazy Slusan cannot offer wagering value because her achievements are history. A bettor can only expect Lazy Slusan to reproduce her top performances, which she probably will. That's fun to watch, but from a gambling perspective, so what? Creative handicappers do not wager on redundancy. Many bettors do.

"Horseplayers seek comfort in the expectation of repetition," writes handicapping author Mark Cramer in his highly recommended book "Thoroughbred Cycles." The simple, profound statement is restated here because it applies to the weekend stakes at Hollywood.

Bettors expect Lazy Slusan to replicate her best form in the Vanity, and she will be bet accordingly. Unfortunately, it is four races too late to make any money on the best distaffer in the West. On March 10 in the Santa Margarita, Lazy Slusan was stepping up in class after losing a restricted race at a shorter price. She won the Santa Margarita at $26.20.

Sound like a familiar theme? It happens all the time. Although Lazy Slusan should win the Vanity, the race has negligible parimutuel value. The only contender entering off a loss is Feverish, but her potential role as lonely leader is obvious, and not likely to be misinterpreted. Gourmet Girl has missed two starts this meet with the excuses of being in season and having a cough. Believe it if you wish. Perhaps the only value in the Vanity is Setareh. She is trying graded stakes for the first time and may not be good enough. However, she is improving and worthy of a wager at 10-1. Can she be that high in a small field?

The action picks up Sunday. Along with the Hollywood Gold Cup, three other stakes will be run - the A Gleam, Triple Bend, and Honeymoon Handicap.

Go Go is the highweight in the A Gleam, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares. Looking through her past performances, it is clear that whatever value she once offered has evaporated. Similar to Lazy Slusan, the ascension of Go Go is now complete. She has won six of her last seven. Everyone knows her name.

They did not on Feb. 24, when Go Go faced graded stakes foes for the first time in the Grade 3 Las Flores. Bettors willing to gamble on continued improvement were rewarded with a $15.60 payoff on a filly who had won three straight. Her odds are not likely to be that high again.

Speedball Kalookan Queen ran super in her comeback, but she may have to take heat from fast-working comebacker Kitty on the Track. Nany's Sweep will put in a late run, but the expectation of a short field makes the A Gleam a tough sell for gamblers.

Caller One has been a hype horse since he was 2; he has never started at higher than 4-1. The underlay career continues in the seven-furlong Triple Bend. Caller One has yet to equal the achievements of reigning sprint champion Kona Gold, but a win Sunday brings him closer. Is there value in the Triple Bend? It depends on how short bettors go on Caller One. He may win, he should win, but he is not invincible.

The Honeymoon, at 1 1/4 miles on turf for 3-year-old fillies, is a raffle, but those who saw Beefeater Baby's unusual trip in the Flawlessly Stakes have been patiently waiting to bet her back. She is moving up in class after losing at shorter odds, and she is trained by Bobby Frankel. The ingredients are in place for a potential upset.

As for the Gold Cup, it will be difficult to squeeze value from a race with four wagering interests, one of which (Power Wing) is a throwout. While favoritism will go to either Captain Steve or the Skimming-Aptitude entry, there is nothing wrong with third choice Futural. Of course, when the highest-odds contender is in the neighborhood of 3-1, the Gold Cup will be like so many other races with small fields.

It's a fun race to watch, but you wouldn't want to bet there.