02/08/2007 12:00AM

Welcome Again feels like a single


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - I expect a common strategy in betting Saturday's all-stakes pick four at Fair Grounds will be to single a horse in the first leg, the $200,000 Mineshaft Handicap. My ticket will begin with a single, too, but instead of using the probable favorite, Master Command, I am taking a shot with Welcome Again.

Master Command is the most likely winner, having won 5 of 12 starts and more than $539,000. My concern is that he is likely to be overplayed, in both the win and pick four pools, for his first race since running fourth in the Clark Handicap on Nov. 24.

Welcome Again, on the other hand, might be overlooked a bit because of his inexperience in stakes company. A 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding, he has raced in a stakes race just once in nine starts, finishing a distant fourth behind Jambalaya in the Breeders' Stakes for Canada-breds at Woodbine in August 2005.

It is what he has done since that is encouraging. Out for more than a year after the Breeders', he returned to the races at Woodbine on Nov. 11, winning an allowance over the Polytrack surface there by 7 1/2 lengths. After a short layoff, he returned Jan. 15 at Gulfstream to win an allowance on dirt by a neck, this time outrunning a graded-placed horse in Dry Martini.

He ran a deceptively good time, too, completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast but dull track in 1:50.07, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

Now trainer Bobby Frankel is showing confidence in the horse by testing him in the Grade 3 Mineshaft, leading me to believe that the horse is going to run as well as, or better than, he did at Gulfstream on Jan. 15.

Whether or not that is good enough to beat Master Command remains to be seen, but I think he is more likely to run a peak race than Master Command, who does not have the benefit of a start this year.

I will play Welcome Again (No. 7) to win in the Mineshaft, which goes as the sixth race on the card, and single him in the pick four. As for the other legs of the wager, here is how I view those races and the horses I plan to include on my tickets:

Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup

A 1 1/8-mile turf contest, this $200,000 stakes appears evenly matched. A good portion of the field have already faced one another.

Devilment (No. 10) is the top choice based on his local form. He won an allowance at Fair Grounds on Nov. 25 and followed that with a victory in the Buddy Diliberto Handicap Dec. 16.

Purim (No. 6), who was cross-entered in the Mineshaft, seems likely to challenge should his connections opt to run in this race. He narrowly won the Jan. 13 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes - a race in which the first seven finishers ran within 2 1/4 lengths of each other. Five of those seven are back in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup.

Storm Treasure (No. 5) will also be thrown on my ticket. Often a runner-up, he has a shot to get over the hump with jockey John Velazquez climbing aboard.

Silverbulletday Stakes

Get Ready Bertie (No. 6), the Tiffany Lass Stakes winner, is a proven commodity running long, something that cannot be said of some of her opponents. So, too, is High Heels (No. 8), who won a 1o1/16-mile allowance at Oaklawn recently with an eye-catching move that brought her from last to first as the field raced down the backstretch.

I will also use Total (No. 3), a winner of 3 of 4 starts who has never raced beyond six furlongs.

To limit the cost of my ticket, I will not use the front-running Appealing Zophie, who has not been quite as effective in routes as in sprints.

Risen Star Stakes

The pick four concludes with a 13-horse lineup of 3-year-olds that includes graded winners Circular Quay (No. 5) and Notional (No. 12).

Both of those big names will be on my pick-four ticket. Circular Quay, a distant runner-up as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, ran first or second in all five of his starts in 2006, and Notional has shown himself to be a classy colt, too, winning the Grade 2 San Rafael by four lengths on Jan. 13.

I will also throw Izzie's Halo (No. 4) and Zanjero (No. 10) on my ticket. They may have a home-track edge over the top two. Izzie's Halo has the benefit of two local starts this meet, including a runner-up finish in the Lecomte, and Zanjero has trained at Fair Grounds since running second in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Nov. 25.

* Using the horses outlined above, my all-stakes pick four ticket beginning in race 6 looks like this: $1 pick four, 7 with 10, 6, 5 with 6, 8, 3 with 5, 12, 4, 10. Total cost: $36.