08/30/2007 11:00PM

Training sale figures offer insight


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - If nothing else, horseplayers get a lot of practice handicapping 2-year-olds at Saratoga. When confronted by fields of first-time starters, it often pays to be prejudiced in favor of juveniles that were purchased at in-training sales earlier in the year. The magic numbers are "07'' alongside wherever the sale took place, primarily from BARMAR (Barretts, March); EASMAY (Fasig-Tipton, Timonium Maryland, May); FTFFEB (Fasig-Tipton Florida, February); KEEAPR (Keeneland, April); OBSFEB (Ocala Breeders' Sales, February); OBSMAR (Ocala Breeders' Sales, March); and OBSAPR (you get the idea). Horses that sell for many times their sire's stud fee have impressed bidders in their training - usually a one-furlong workout - either with their speed, athleticism, or both.

At the Festival of Maiden Filly Sprints that took place here Thursday, featuring five such races at 5 1/2 furlongs, the first three were won by horses purchased at one of those sales (there were no first-time starters out of a 2-year-old sale in the last two):

In race 2, the only 2-year-old in-training buys were D J Lightning and Nighttime Appeal, who fetched $60,000 and $25,000, respectively, at the OBSAPR sale. D J Lightning's sticker price was six times more than the stud fee for her sire, Doneraile Court, but Nighttime Appeal's price was $15,000 less than the fee commanded by her relatively fashionable sire, Successful Appeal, which was a negative. D J Lightning won by more than five lengths at $9; Nighttime Appeal was far back throughout and finished next-to-last.

In race 4, the two fillies coming out of sales earlier this year were Freakstein (BARMAR $700,000), who sold for more than 23 times sire Bernstein's stud fee, and Psycho D J (EASMAY $170,000), who sold for just more than four times sire Indian Charlie's stud fee. Freakstein wired the field and paid $8.80, and the international good-thing Psycho D J chased her around the track to complete a $23 exacta.

Race 5 was a New York-bred maiden claimer, and while it may not have been a thing of aesthetic beauty (the winning Beyer Speed Figure was a 29), Cape Cod Escape (OBSAPR $25,000) was one of two in the field that was auctioned this year, and she prevailed by a neck over the 8-5 favorite and paid $25.20 to win. Cape Cod Escape's purchase price was ordinary, even for a statebred, but was still more than three times the stud fee for her sire, American Chance.

Spinaway Stakes

The Spinaway Stakes provides more evidence of how this simple sales angle finds live juveniles. Four contenders went through the auction ring earlier this year - Irish Smoke (OBSMAR $285,000), More Happy (FTFFEB $1,000,000), Phantom Income (OBSMAR $200,000), and Passion (KEEAPR $260,000).

All four sold for at least 11 times their sire's stud fee, and all four won first time out. More Happy was the only one to go off as the favorite, when she held on by a neck at $4.20 on Del Mar's Polytrack; she then shipped to Saratoga to wire the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes at a $5 mutuel. Phantom Income won by more than 10 lengths at Belmont and paid $11.60. Passion won by more than seven lengths on Polytrack at Arlington Park and paid $10.40. Irish Smoke was merely shown the whip when she won by two lengths at $7.40 here a month ago.

Irish Smoke may go favored on the strength of her debut performance, for which she earned an exceptional Beyer of 94 - a figure that was seemingly confirmed when the runner-up, Syriana's Song, returned to win last week with a figure of 95.

The classic dilemma is that Irish Smoke has had only one race and is stretching out from five furlongs, whereas several others have already been 6 1/2 furlongs in stakes. Optimists will recall that her trainer, Patrick Biancone, won the 2004 Spinaway with Sense of Style, who was also making her second start after winning her debut with a Beyer of 92 earlier at the meet. However, Sense of Style went 6 1/2 furlongs first time out, prior to dominating the seven-furlong Spinaway by nearly seven lengths.

Saranac Stakes

The 100th running of the 1 3/16-mile Saranac Stakes for 3-year-olds on the grass precedes the Spinaway. The probable favorite is Distorted Reality, who has put up Beyers of 90 or better in his last five starts. This will be his first race beyond 1 1/8 miles, though, and he has the kind of one-paced style that is often vulnerable to fast finishers on turf.

Blazing Dynamo didn't finish particularly well in the Virginia Derby last out, but that may have been a function of being up close tracking the pace from third position.

A work in progress, Blazing Dynamo was an exceptionally game maiden winner while pinned down on the inside early at Belmont's spring meet, and was equally impressive winning a 10-furlong allowance a month later, when he was allowed to settle into stride far off the early pace and make a sustained late run. Look for a return to those tactics in the Saranac.