09/04/2003 12:00AM

Use 'Swinger' atop cold exacta

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NEW YORK - Grade 1 races such as the $500,000 Woodward Stakes, $500,000 Man o' War Stakes, and $250,000 Gazelle Handicap would make many meets a success. But at Belmont Park, these races are the main events on just one card. No wonder the action at Belmont this time of year has long been known as the "Fall Championship Meeting."

Indeed, at least two of the big three stakes at Belmont on Saturday will have major championship implications. While the turf division in the Man o' War will continue to sort itself out and show if it can muster an effective response to the European invasion that is to come, Mineshaft will be odds-on in the Woodward to counter the sudden challenge from Candy Ride for leadership in the handicap division, and the Gazelle will have considerable bearing on the championship of a wide-open 3-year-old filly division.

Elsewhere, significant stakes races can be found Saturday at Del Mar and Delaware Park. Three-year-olds who aspire to be leaders of future turf divisions will contest the $300,000 Del Mar Derby, while female sprinters get a rare lucrative opportunity in the $200,000 Endine Handicap at Delaware.

Here are the stakes I focused on:

Del Mar Derby

I like a cold exacta here, mainly because the colt I like to win it, Senor Swinger, won't be much of a price. Fairly Ransom is the one I like underneath.

Senor Swinger weaved out and in passing rivals in upper stretch of the La Jolla most recently, but then he finished like a rocket once on a straight course to be beaten only a diminishing length, and he galloped out ahead of the rest of the field. Senor Swinger will love the added sixteenth of a mile this race affords, and will be hard to deny.

As for Fairly Ransom, he was floated very wide at the top of the stretch of the La Jolla, just like he was when a narrowly beaten favorite in a division of the Oceanside two starts back. Still, Fairly Ransom finished only a half-length behind Senor Swinger in the La Jolla, and this time, he may well be an overlay.

Gazelle Handicap

Spoken Fur was flat when a distant third at 4-5 in the Alabama last time out, but I look for her to rebound in this spot.

Spoken Fur's dull performance at Saratoga was predictable, because she was coming off a demanding victory at 1 1/2 miles in the Coaching Club American Oaks in which she outclassed her opposition despite being clearly weary in the last quarter-mile. Moreover, at the time of the Alabama, Spoken Fur and the rest of the Bobby Frankel stable was in the throes of an uncharacteristically deep slump.

After the Frankel-trained Aldebaran received a Beyer Speed Figure of 122 for his romp in last Sunday's Forego Handicap, however, we have the green light to bet Frankel's horses again. And, the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Gazelle should be very much to Spoken Fur's liking. It was at that distance at Belmont that she delivered the best performance of her career, a runaway score in the Mother Goose Stakes three races back.

Endine Handicap

There are some talented older females in this race such as Mandy's Gold and Wilzada. But these two in particular present questions concerning current form, or recent inactivity, or both. So, even though she is facing older opponents for the first time in her career, the 3-year-old House Party is a solid play.

As you might expect in a $200,000 sprint, there is a fair amount of speed in here. I expect the pace to be hot and contested, and to crumble in the stretch, which plays to House Party's strength as a closer. Although she was simply beaten by two better fillies in Lady Tak and Bird Town when third in the Test Stakes most recently, House Party demonstrated what she can do in a more moderate spot and with a hot pace two starts back when she steamrolled her field in the stretch to win the Grade 1 Prioress.