01/17/2008 12:00AM

Video replays uncover four worthy longshots


ARCADIA, Calif. - What do you see when you watch a replay?

Watch a replay of Champs Elysees's most recent start, and you will cringe. Making his U.S. debut Dec. 8 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup (race 5), Champs Elysees suffered a trip that is still painful to watch.

Racing fifth on the rail, Champs Elysees was blocked on the far turn. Then it got worse. He was shuffled back to last into the lane, remained blocked, and did not find a clear path until straightening for home. He closed furiously, too late. Front-runner Sunriver, who had set leisurely fractions, was gone.

Champ Elysees finished second by 2 3/4 lengths, but the replay suggests he was best. The problem is that everyone saw that brutal trip, and Champs Elysees will be heavily favored Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile San Marcos Stakes.

The replay of Champs Elysees's last start is required viewing for anyone planning to wager on the San Marcos. Watch the replay, and it will be tough to wager against Champs Elysees, who will be the favorite. The bad trip was blatant.

Race replays, however, can uncover potential nuggets that are less conspicuous. The first race Saturday at Santa Anita is a maiden-claiming sprint in which a video review suggests Sanmeli could be a standout.

Sanmeli had not raced in 13 months when she returned Dec. 28 in race 4, a $25,000 maiden claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs. The short distance requires urgent strategy. To win at 5 1/2, riders must ask mounts for immediate speed. That did not happen with Sanmeli.

She broke well, but her rider sat still. Sanmeli fell back to ninth as her rider sat motionless. Not exactly a winning strategy. Sanmeli was asked for run on the turn, she picked up steam, was rolling coming off the bend, then went evenly to the wire.

After watching the replay, a handicapper might conclude the comeback was designed strictly as a prep race. Because of her previously established ability, and solid workouts prior to the race, it seems likely that Sanmeli was merely "given" a race first start back.

Saturday in race 1, Sanmeli stretches out to 6o1/2 furlongs. She is likely to improve. If she is good enough - the gamble is that she is - Sanmeli can win the bottom-level maiden claimer.

Video review is always subject to interpretation. Other horseplayers may watch the same race and conclude that Sanmeli is merely a slow maiden that cannot run. That is possible. We'll find out Saturday.

It can be difficult to be objective about a horse that you wagered on. My Friend Luis runs Saturday in race 2. Those who wagered on My Friend Luis in a $12,500 claiming sprint in race 5 on Jan. 10 will be tempted to play him back. Sometimes, you are obligated to chase.

My Friend Luis was jumping in class, first off the claim by a sharp stable. It was an interesting move, and the late-runner seemed a reasonable gamble at 8-1. Because a fast pace was likely, the closers would have their chance. But it never happened. Front-running favorite Zayed went up in the air as the gates opened, leaving the other front-runner, Dark Past, with less pressure than expected. Dark Past won clear.

My Friend Luis, meanwhile, had no chance. Buried on the rail, he searched for room at the quarter pole, remained blocked at that critical stage, and by the time he found a seam at the head of the lane, he merely sputtered. It can all be seen on the replay. But what does the replay really mean?

The fact is, My Friend Luis did nothing extraordinary after the trouble. One-paced to the wire, he merely went through the motions. The only thing the traffic and softer-than-expected pace did was provide My Friend Luis with an alibi for running sixth. It is entirely possible, perhaps likely, that he simply is not good enough.

In race 2 Saturday, My Friend Luis stretches to six furlongs. He drops one level and switches riders. The presence of speedsters My Master and Currency Trader indicate the race will unfold at a fast pace. At 9-1 or higher, My Friend Luis is worth a gamble, even though Hemet at lower odds is more likely to win.

Videos of Southern California races are available free of at charge at Calracing.com, or for a modest subscription fee at racereplays.com.

A handicapper can find lots of good stuff watching replays.

In race 5 Saturday, Good Mood runs in a two-turn turf stakes that is her first race since encountering trouble in a downhill sprint in race 9 on Jan. 1. She appeared to lug in turning for home, was briefly trapped, angled outside, finished fast, and galloped out in front. To win Saturday, Good Mood must catch front-runner Unspoken Word.

In race 6 Saturday, Warren's Whisper makes her second start. In her debut, which came in race 10 on Dec.o16 at Hollywood Park, she broke last from the rail, made an extended run, then lost her focus late and finished fourth. Up in class Saturday against legitimate favorite Gambler's Justice, Warren's Whisper might upset with a clean break.

Video review opens up all sorts of possibilities. Bad trips such as San Marcos favorite Champ Elysees's usually are obvious.

But less-conspicuous trouble at lower levels can be even more important for horseplayers who watch race replays and use what they see to decide when to pull the trigger on a longshot.