11/01/2005 12:00AM

Time to bring in a new duo


TUCSON, Ariz. - The Breeders' Cup said goodbye to NBC last Saturday, and just in time. The peacock's feathers were losing their luster, and the proud bird was beginning to look tired and bedraggled.

For its farewell show, the network reached into its old scripts drawer, pulled out the dried-up document once again, blew off the dust from the yellowed parchment, and went through the same old motions a final time.

It was not exactly an exhilarating afternoon.

Eight reruns of the Mike and Bob Show, racing's Odd Couple, are seven too many. Maybe eight.

Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier both are nice, genial guys, but ESPN, the new proprietor of the Breeders' Cup for the next eight years, might try a different duo.

For openers, they might consider Andy Beyer. And if it doesn't sound too much like kissing the boss, I suggest that a combination of Beyer and Steven Crist would be dynamite.

On Saturday, by the time Neumeier said he would push the whole pot in and pick Saint Liam in the Classic, the pot wouldn't have bought a Las Vegas hamburger.

To get an idea of what a Beyer-Crist double might provide in contrast to past pabulum on the tube, take a look at a bit of dialogue from their pre-Cup internet chat comments on the Racing Form's website last week. Their quick, ad-libbed answers showed their deep knowledge and acerbic humor. Having two highly intelligent and entertaining Harvard guys talk about racing might accomplish what the Breeders' Cup was originally intended to do, according to its own mission statement years ago: Introduce new fans to Thoroughbred racing and broaden the base of interest in the sport. Instead of preaching to the choir, it needs some intelligent commentary and a novel link with betting to sustain public interest for four hours.

When asked if Starcraft's pedigree suggested he could run on dirt, Beyer replied that not only did Starcraft lack the pedigree, but that he was beaten regularly going 1 1/4 miles on the grass and couldn't even win at the distance in New Zealand. Beyer said, "He could finish last." He finished seventh.

When asked who the most overrated false favorite would be, Beyer said, "I hate Ouija Board in the Filly and Mare Turf." She went off at 2-1 and was beaten by 15-1 Intercontinental.

Asked about the Pletcher horses, Beyer replied, "I think he might get blanked. I don't like Ashado - I never have - and I don't like Adieu."

Ashado finished third, beaten 9 1/2 lengths, Adieu finished seventh, and Pletcher took a collar for the B.C. races.

On Shirocco, 20-1 on the morning line, Beyer pointed out: "I am told he is a monster on soft turf. He may not have the credentials of the other two Euros, but you've got to use him." He paid $19.60.

And when he was asked, "Do you think a trainer like Rick Dutrow is disadvantaged with the additional scrutiny preventing him going to the top shelf of his horse 'medicine' cabinet?" Beyer answered, "Gosh, you're awfully cynical about the Sport of Kings."

Crist was equally entertaining.

When a poster said, "My lock of the day is Diamond Omi in the Juvenile Fillies, what do you think," Crist told him: "I think it's a free country and we can all have a different lock of the day. She's not mine. In fact, I'm going six deep in the race and not using her." Diamond Omi finished 10th and last.

Asked if Megahertz could be thrown out if the ground was soft, Crist said: "Soft ground would be just another minus for a very neat horse who I just don't like in this spot. Megahertz is terrific in her element - Southern California and weak competition." She finished eighth.

And when asked if the unbeaten Lost in the Fog was vulnerable, Crist responded: "If you say anything negative about Lost in the Fog's chances, people accuse you of drowning puppies in your spare time. But I think he's vulnerable and is going to be wildly overbet at 3-5." He went off at 7-10 and finished 7th.

This is not about winners and losers; Beyer and Crist had both. It is about saying something significant, something humorous, something pertinent. It is about introducing authority and expertise, something that has been missing on the Breeders' Cup telecasts.

It is about something that can be offered that is far better than what has been provided by NBC in recent years.