05/31/2006 11:00PM

Time to take stock of juvenile potential


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Based on final times, juvenile fillies repeatedly are outperforming juvenile colts at Hollywood.

Richwoman, a filly, won a 5 1/2-furlong stakes one week ago at Hollywood Park in a swift 1:04.29. Genuine Talent, a colt, won a 5 1/2-furlong stakes on the same Hollywood card in a sluggish 1:06.13. Richwoman, impressive winner of the Cinderella Stakes for fillies, ran more than seven lengths faster than Genuine Talent, who won the Willard Proctor.

The pattern is firmly established.

Maria's Quest (by Maria's Mon) set the tone April 27 by racing 4 1/2 furlongs in a quick 51.47 seconds. Three other maiden filly winners ran similarly fast - Holly Torque Tango, Little City, and Doubloon City. Meanwhile, the fastest colt at 4 1/2 furlongs ranks way down in fifth - Put It in Writing won in 51.91 seconds.

Beyond raw time, the gender gap is illustrated by Beyer Speed Figures. The meet was a month old before a colt ran a decent number. Diamond Dave earned an Beyer Figure of 85 winning a May 25 maiden race by nearly five lengths. It makes him a tepid favorite July 4 for the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile.

His status is precarious, because at this early stage of the season Diamond Dave and Put It in Writing (Beyers of 77) are merely best of a bad group. Meanwhile, a host of fillies have impressed speed-figure enthusiasts. They are Little City (87), Shawklit Sundae (83), Richwoman (82), Holly Torque Tango (81), Doubloon City (79), and Maria's Quest (77).

Second time will tell

But now the 2-year-olds are "stretching out" to five furlongs and beyond, and the question is whether early-season speed figures matter all that much.

Handicappers sometimes are guilty of misinterpreting figures. It is an easy trap with 2-year-olds, who often make quantum leaps on the Beyer scale in their second start.

Regardless of workouts, pedigree, or trainer, there is nothing like initial race experience to wake up a 2-year-old. It happens every spring, and has already begun with these second-time starters at Hollywood:

* Swiss Rose ($12) won May 24. Her Beyer jumped from 46 to 73.

* Herb's Girl Kelsey ($6.20) won May 25. Her Beyer jumped from 35 to 54.

* Little City ($12.20) won May 25. Her Beyer jumped from 59 to 87.

* Doubloon City ($5.20) won May 25. Her Beyer jumped from 48 to 79.

* Diamond Dave ($4.40) won May 29; his Beyer jumped from 56 to 85.

None ran fast in their debut. But a soft figure is not the end of the world for a 2-year-old first-time starter.

The numbers never tell the whole story, particularly with 2-year-olds. Supplemental information can be considered, including video replays, trip comments, and trainer patterns.

The above examples include Herb's Girl Kelsey, who split the field in her debut despite trouble. Her comment line read "off bit slow, tight 3 1/2." As for Little City, she blazed the first quarter-mile of her debut in 21.93 seconds before tiring. Both firsters showed run.

Doubloon City finished in front of Herb's Girl Kelsey first time out. The replay showed Doubloon City being shuffled back early, finishing well, and galloping out strongly past the wire. By the time fourth-place Doubloon City ran again, fifth-place Herb's Girl Kelsey had returned to win.

As for Diamond Dave, he was no surprise. Doug O'Neill's 15 percent win rate with second-time starters was shown in Diamond Dave's past performances. Further evidence was generated by the Daily Racing Form software program Formulator: In the past five spring meets at Hollywood, O'Neill had been 4 for 8 with juvenile second-time starters in special weight races. Now 5 for 9.

Pedigree improvement cannot be more blatant than when Swiss Rose made her second start for trainer Mike Harrington on May 24. Swiss Rose had raced wide and finished fifth in her debut. She ran okay, not great, and was one of those second-time starters that frequently stump bettors. Her debut Beyer was 46.

But based on family history, Swiss Rose was virtually guaranteed to move up.

Sired by Swiss Yodeler and produced by Martha My Dear, Swiss Rose is a full sister to three winners also trained by Harrington - My Honey Bunny, Swiss Address, and Cleartalker. All three produced radical improvement in their second career start at age 2.

* My Honey Bunny won May 16, 2002. Her Beyer went from 40 to 69.

* Cleartalker lost May 7, 2003, but his Beyer went from 24 to 54.

* Swiss Address won May 6, 2004. His Beyer went from 34 to 77.

* Swiss Rose followed suit May 24, 2006. Her Beyer went from 46 to 73, and she paid $12.

The point is, there is more to handicapping 2-year-olds than merely the figure. Visual interpretation, trainer tendencies, and pedigree analysis are part of the process.

Juveniles to watch

Prenuptial (by Broken Vow) was slow from the gate and squeezed in her May 24 debut. Trained by Ben Cecil, Prenuptial was produced by the stakes-wining mare Global Finance and is sure to improve off her sixth-place debut.

Shawklit Sundae (by Mr. Shawklit) already ran fast, earning a Beyer Figure of 83 in her runner-up debut May 25. If she faces maidens next time, she will be a deserving odds-on favorite.

A sleeper could be a filly who finished nowhere in her May 25 debut. Sportie's Squeeze (by Souvenir Copy) had shown speed in morning works. But she broke poorly from the rail in her debut, was passively ridden, and stayed at the back.

Maidens trained by John Sadler typically improve second time out. Generally speaking, so do 2-year-old maidens overall.

Sportie's Squeeze earned a 49 Beyer first out. If she follows the springtime theme, Sportie's Squeeze could earn a Beyer of 80 or higher next out. It might be enough to score an upset.

Sooner or later, the colts will catch up to the fillies. And it might happen June 8, the next scheduled open race for 2-year-olds. The colts E Z Warrior (by Exploit) and Mr. Negotiator (by Stormin Fever) have not raced, but fast workouts at Santa Anita suggest they are getting close.