10/31/2007 11:00PM

A tougher race, but a better spot

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - It is Cal Cup Day at Santa Anita on Saturday, and somehow I doubt the connections of Windy forgot about it. Saturday, the California-bred filly Windy is at Churchill Downs racing in the Gradeo2, $200,000 Chilukki Stakes, which looks like a perfect spot, unlike her Cal Cup options out West.

A late-running one-turn specialist on dirt, she was a horse without a proper race in the Cal Cup. Provided she stayed with her own sex, her Cal Cup stakes options were a 1 1/4-mile turf race, a 1 1/16-mile two-turn test over Cushion Track, and a 6 1/2-furlong sprint doing down the hill over Santa Anita's turf course.

Rather than race her over conditions that do not suit her, trainer Bobby Frankel has wisely entered Windy in the Chilukki, a race that plays to her strength.

All signs point to a banner effort from Windy, a 4-year-old daughter of Wild Rush. Not only does she come off a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 - the top last-race figure in the race - but she has also earned Beyers as high as 95 and 97 on other occasions - suggesting her lofty recent figure is not a one-race fluke.

She further accomplished that 101 Beyer despite a troubled trip. Facing a graded-stakes-placed filly in Baby Bird at Belmont in that third-level allowance Sept. 14, she stumbled at the start and yet nearly ran down Baby Bird, who got away with a soft pace. Windy finished second, falling a head short.

Now Frankel aggressively bypasses the third-level allowance condition to chase a stakes race - just the kind of move he does so often with success. He also likes to do this when a horse of his runs a peak race and he has given her plenty of recovery time leading up to this stakes start to lessen the possibility of a bounce.

There is no shortage of speed in the Chilukki. Lady Belsara and Pleasant Hill are front-runners, and Rolling Sea, Change Up, and Trendy Lady race close to the pace. This sets the stage for at least moderate splits in the Chilukki - something Windy didn't receive in her last start.

At 7-2 on the morning line, she looks like a great bet in the win pool. I will also use Rolling Sea and High Heels underneath her in the exotics.

Ack Ack: Istan capable of rebound

A race earlier on the Saturday card at Churchill, the boys race in the Ack Ack, another $200,000 stakes at a mile.

Although Sun King is the "name" horse of the race, he is no sure thing. Istan, a multiple-stakes-winning Gone West horse returning to his best surface on dirt, should prove tough to beat, and at 5-2 on the morning line, his price is expected to be higher than the odds on Sun King, who is 9-5.

Istan's connections took a shot with him in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile Oct. 6, but his chances were eliminated at the start. Normally a horse that races close to the pace, he was off last, and then forced to race widest of all from start to finish. All things considered, he ran well to finish seventh, beaten seven lengths.

Now he gets to do he does best - race a mile on dirt. With a clean break and a good trip, his class and figures suggest he might be able to withstand the late run of Sun King, who has struggled to win while racing with some of the nation's best horses in recent years.

Take 2-1 on Cool Coal Man

The seventh race on the Churchill card, a first-level allowance for 2-year-olds, has drawn several horses with exciting potential and serves as a potential prep for the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on closing day, Nov. 24.

My choice is Cool Coal Man, who starts for owner-trainer tandem of Robert LaPenta and Nick Zito, the connections behind Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner War Pass.

Cool Coal Man has improved with each of his three starts, capped by a 10 1/4-length triumph at Delaware Park on Oct. 10 in his first race around two turns.

My hope is that the betting public will view the competition there as second rate, and as a result let this horse start close to his morning line odds of 2-1.

The Beyer Cool Coal Man earned - an 81 - won't blow any minds at first glance, but it has been my experience that it is difficult for 2-year-olds to post an incredibly fast time going two turns, perhaps because they do not have the maturity or foundation of older horses.

Cool Coal Man has a pedigree that suggests plenty of upside. He is by Mineshaft out of Coral Sea, a half-sister to graded winner Signal Tap. His second dam is the stakes-placed Northern Dancer mare South Sea Dancer, a full sister to Storm Bird.