08/14/2002 11:00PM

Use the chalk on top of Paolini

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NEW YORK - There are six - count 'em - stakes races on Saturday with purses of a quarter-million dollars or more. In ascending order, they are the $250,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks, the $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes and the $700,000 Beverly D. Stakes, both at Arlington, the $750,000 Alabama Stakes, Saratoga's premier event for 3-year-old fillies, and Arlington's signature event, the Arlington Million.

You would think that with so many rich stakes to choose from that I would find at least three betting opportunities. Indeed, the most difficult part is limiting my choices to three, because depending on how the old bankroll holds up, I could bet on all of them. But here are the three races where I have the strongest opinion:

Arlington Million

I will cut right to the chase and tell you that Beat Hollow should win this race as the solid favorite. He is the best turf horse in America despite his upset loss last time out in the Eddie Read, when he was the victim of major traffic trouble and an ill-judged ride. With the switch to Jerry Bailey on Saturday, he should fall victim to neither this time. And a decided lack of early foot in this edition of the Million could put him on the lead, as he was when he went wire-to-wire in the Manhattan Handicap two starts back.

The two who figure to be next in line in the betting - Sarafan and Forbidden Apple - can both be beaten for second. Sarafan is the only horse to have beaten Beat Hollow in this country, but when he did that for a second time in the Eddie Read, he capitalized on Beat Hollow's trouble. More importantly, Sarafan may not have the same late punch at this 1 1/4-mile distance as he does at 1 1/8 miles and shorter.

As for Forbidden Apple, he sports a win in last year's Manhattan and a second to Beat Hollow in this year's Manhattan at this distance. Those races, however, came at Forbidden Apple's beloved Belmont Park, where he has always been a little better than he has been elsewhere.

For second, I will take Paolini. He had a world of trouble in his last start at Royal Ascot, so that race is a throwout. But before that, he was second to the highly regarded Grandera in Singapore, earning a Timeform rating that puts him in the ballpark here. And, when Paolini was a narrowly beaten second in the Canadian International last fall, he showed he could ship to North America and perform effectively.

Alabama

Let's tackle the Alabama by process of elimination. Smok'n Frolic hasn't won since November, so she's out, and Nonsuch Bay, who outstaggered a severely depleted field in the Mother Goose, is out too. Jilbab did overcome trouble to win the CCA Oaks last time out, but beat a woeful field, and Farda Amiga was sick after her upset win in the Kentucky Oaks, and still needs to prove to me that race wasn't a fluke.

You, who may be co-favorite, has won four Grade 1 races this year, the most recent a thrilling decision in the Test earlier in the Saratoga meet. But she didn't want any part of 1 1/8 miles when fourth in the Kentucky Oaks, so I don't think she will want 1 1/4 miles, even now.

That leaves Allamerican Bertie and Bella Bellucci. Even though Bella Bellucci has issues of her own - she missed the Kentucky Oaks and ran dreadfully in the Acorn - she alleviated a lot of concerns with her fast allowance romp recently. She's my pick.

The distance may also be a stretch for Allamerican Bertie, but she's in really fine form and I liked the way she demolished a solid field in the Delaware Oaks last time out. She will be a decent price and should be used.

Beverly D.

At first glance, it may look like England's Legend will gallop on the early lead as she seeks to win the Beverly D. a second straight year. But I think Tates Creek will go after her early, and Astra may move in the middle stages, too.

If I'm correct, then this will come down to who has the best closing kick, and that is clearly between Astra and Golden Apples. Both have powerful finishes, and both

have traded decisions this year. Golden Apples, however, will be the bigger price Saturday, and that is always the difference-maker for me.