10/03/2007 11:00PM

Turf Mile scale tips in Cosmonaut's favor

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Poll a group of horseplayers regarding the importance of the weight a horse carries, and opinions would be wide ranging. Old-school handicappers would mostly view it as an important consideration, while others, influenced more by workouts, trainer angles, and form cycles, might consider it an irrelevant factor.

My opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I believe the amount of weight a horse carries is significant in certain races, and largely a non-factor in others. You simply can't view all the races the same, just as one shouldn't favor early speed as much on a synthetic or turf track as on dirt.

My view is that weight carried matters little in dirt sprints, and a lot in turf routes, for the simple reason that turf routes are typically so competitive. Turf horses run similar numbers and often finish in a tight pack, thereby making class, trips, and weight all more important.

With that in mind, I believe Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland presents a favorable wagering opportunity, in part because of a shift in weights. Cosmonaut, a consistent, hard-trying horse who has been hindered by spotting weight in handicap races in recent starts, finally gets a chance to face his opponents at equal weights.

Things were not as favorable for him racing in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga Aug. 25. Starting as the 8-5 favorite after winning the Arlington Handicap in his preceding start, he carried 122 pounds, five to eight more than each of his nine opponents.

It proved too much. After pressing the pace, he came up empty in the stretch and faded to fifth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

Winning in course-record time that day was Shakis, a good horse but one who capitalized on the conditions of the race. He saved ground for much of the race after breaking from the fence and carried six pounds less than Cosmonaut.

Circumstances are different in the Shadwell when the pair meet again. Shakis is drawn on the outside in the field of nine, and like every horse in the race is carrying 126 pounds

Just as Cosmonaut can be forgiven for his defeat in the Bernard Baruch, I believe his win two starts ago in the Arlington Handicap is even better than it looks on paper because he was again spotting weight. He beat some solid turf horses in that race, horses like Revved Up and Go Between, and spotted them four and five pounds, respectively.

Cosmonaut, fourth in the Shadwell last year, benefits from a soft field in this year's renewal. European invader Astronomer Royal is the only Grade 1 winner - and he has not fired in either of his last two starts.

Unless Astronomer Royal runs back to the form he showed in winning the French 2000 Guineas in May, a Grade 2- or Grade-3 caliber performance will likely be all that is required to win the Shadwell. And by most measures, including weight carried in tough company, Cosmonaut is a legitimate Grade 2 or Grade 3 horse.

Slew's Tiznow a strong bet

A race before the Shadwell, in the Grade 1 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, Slew's Tiznow looms a potentially rewarding play.

A full brother to Lexington Stakes winner Slew's Tizzy, Slew's Tiznow may have more upside than his older brother. After a troubled trip when fourth in his debut, he moved forward in his second start, drawing off by 4 1/4 lengths in seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga on Aug. 16.

He seemed to win in spite of sprinting, not because it was his calling to race one turn. A big, long-striding horse with a high cruising speed, he seems tailor made for racing a distance of ground - which was similarly true of his sire, two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow.

Tiznow is developing into a good synthetictrack sire, and trainer Patrick Biancone's horses so often produce top-level races over the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland.

Shipper looks live at long odds

Longshot players might wish to give Abidon consideration in the second race on Keeneland's Saturday card. He invades from Prairie Meadows, where he has been competitive in stakes company, and will likely be overlooked in a 2-year-old race with several well-bred types coming off good races in New York.

Abidon is a son of Devil His Due, an underrated Polytrack sire who has had 16 of his runners win races on synthetic surfaces this year.