09/10/2008 11:00PM

Trading betting value for course experience


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With its asymmetrical turns and an undulating surface, the European-style course at Kentucky Downs is unlike most other turf courses in America.

So when horseplayers bet the races there, those horses with experience over the course, particularly those with a win, seem to garner more than their fair share of support. After all, logic would dictate they are more likely to appreciate the conditions, as opposed to those that have never seen action over it.

The problem is everyone is thinking that way, even if the theory holds up. Last year, for example, there were two winners during the meet that had won over the course previously - Allinondeputyjim and Grumman. They paid $4.20 and $3.80, respectively.

So with the Kentucky Cup on tap Saturday at Kentucky Downs, my general feeling is to not bet past winners over the course - but instead to play against them, reasoning that they will be overbet.

There are two such past winners in the Grade 3, $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf - Silverfoot, winner of this race in 2005, and Embossed, the 2006 winner. Both will take action off their past success, particularly Silverfoot, who is in top form following a fourth in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.

Although I respect Silverfoot, I'll try to capitalize on him being heavily bet and support Stream of Gold, a recent $60,000 claim by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey at Saratoga.

Although exiting a claiming race - a contest he won - Stream of Gold is no stranger to stakes, having won the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Handicap in March. He also ran second to English Channel in Grade 1 Turf Classic last fall.

A 7-year-old gelding, he has a history of layoffs - which likely explains why he was dropped into a claiming race. But the Ramseys are sharp claiming owners, and trainer Mike Maker is skilled at improving horses that join his stable.

Stream of Gold, the likely second betting choice in the Kentucky Cup Turf, looks like a quality value-based alternative to Silverfoot.

On the Menu the pick in Matron

Saturday's juvenile action at Belmont Park - featuring the Grade 2 Futurity for males and the Grade 2 Matron for females - showcases some of the best young prospects in the country.

The Futurity, in particular, looks like a talent-laden event, with all seven of the competitors coming off a victory, some in very fast time.

I view the Matron as the better wagering race, however. It offers a deeper field of nine, and one of those nine might slip past the public, despite having won her only race.

That filly is On the Menu. From the same connections that brought us Proud Spell - owner/breeder Brereton Jones and trainer Larry Jones - she looks like a filly that should move forward second time out.

As well as she performed in winning her debut, we likely didn't see her best. Fourth early, she surged to the lead in midstretch, as if she were going to draw off to a big victory, but instead seemed to go through the motions late, and scored a half-length victory.

Look for her to benefit from the experience as well as being treated with Lasix for the first time.

My instinct tells me she will get a bit overlooked coming off a maiden win at Delaware Park. But don't be fooled into thinking she didn't beat anything at Delaware.

Mani Bhaven - widely considered the leading 2-year-old filly in the country - won her first race at Delaware and then promptly went to Saratoga and took the Adirondack and Spinaway.

And last year, Proud Spell kicked off her career at Delaware, winning a maiden race and a small stakes race there before taking the Grade 2 Matron and blossoming into one of the top fillies of 2007 and 2008.

Pace should boost Wild Gams in Masters

The Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes offers a $400,000 purse for fillies and mares Saturday evening at Presque Isle in Pennsylvania. A six-furlong race over the track's synthetic Tapeta surface, it drew such quality stakes winners as Ride Em Cowgirl, Miss Macy Sue, Dream Rush, Jazzy, and Wild Gams.

Miss Macy Sue, the defending champion, is the morning-line favorite at 5-2, but I like Wild Gams, who ran second to her in this race last year.

She enters this race in peak form, and after a short summer freshening looks poised for a strong effort with the return to a synthetic surface.

Miss Macy Sue, in contrast, has not been as sharp in 2008 as she was last year.

With plenty of speed in the 12-horse field, Wild Gams should get a hot pace to set up her rally.