01/17/2008 12:00AM

Tuzla pace setup lifts Good Mood


NEW YORK - There are only two graded stakes on Saturday's national racing calendar, and Santa Anita has both of them - the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes and the Grade 3 Tuzla Handicap.

Tuzla Handicap

Unspoken Word, Audacious Chloe, and Live Life all like to operate on or close to the early lead, suggesting the pace in this race should be at least honest, if not strong. With that in mind, I want a filly who can finish, and that filly is Good Mood.

Good Mood competed on the downhill course in the Monrovia Handicap on New Year's Day. She finished third (she was eventually moved up to second on the disqualification of the runner-up), beaten less than two lengths, in a performance she can definitely improve on for a number of reasons. First, Good Mood was making her first start in three months, so she has a license to benefit from the outing. She was going a distance shorter than what she prefers and will appreciate the stretch out to a mile Saturday. And finally, she did not have the smoothest of trips, getting shuffled back on the rail entering the far turn and then having to steady and angle out behind a wall of horses in upper stretch.

Last year, Good Mood showed a solid closing kick in a couple of performances in middle-distance races that indicate she is plenty good enough to win an event like this. In June, she won the Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs in going-away fashion and in strong final time. After that, in the Lake George Stakes at Saratoga, she was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by Rutherienne, who came back in her next start to dominate the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

Cincinnati Trophy Stakes

This is Saturday's headliner at Turfway Park, and though Conjuress is in with many opponents who have a substantial edge in seasoning over her, she was so impressive winning her recent racing debut that I'm taking her to score right back despite her inexperience. Conjuress was a surprise when she clicked in her first start, as she was let go at over 13-1. But she won like a genuine runner, scoring by almost four lengths in final time fast enough for her to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 74. That 74 is tied for third highest in this field and is certainly a number she can improve on in the second start of her career. What was especially impressive about Conjuress, however, is that she won the way she did after breaking a clear last of 12 and then rushing up to set the fastest opening quarter-mile fraction of the entire card.

American Beauty Stakes

Country Diva and Fast Deal finished first and second last year in this headliner of the first Saturday of the Oaklawn Park meet at odds of 36-1 and 28-1, respectively. Both are back again this year, and this time, there is a good chance they will be first and second choices in the betting. Fast Deal, however, must break from the extreme outside and faces a tough task dealing with several speed horses to her inside. Country Diva should be very tough, as she figures to fall into the kind of pocket stalking trip that is probably her most effective running style. That said, Country Diva might regress off a hard-earned, career-best Beyer of 94 last time out, as every time lately that she has cracked 90, she has been flat in her next start. And since Country Diva won't offer betting value, anyway, I'm going against her with Classify.

Classify won all three of her starts over this track last year in an abbreviated campaign, but she showed quality to win last month at Fair Grounds off a long layoff. Classify is going turf to dirt, a hugely successful move for her barn, she has a license to improve second start off the long layoff, and has the closing style I'm looking for here.