09/24/2008 11:00PM

West Side Bernie's experience counts


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When analyzing the form of 2-year-olds competing in allowances and stakes, handicappers understandably look for those that have run fast times and kept tough company.

To a far lesser extent do horseplayers seem to focus upon horses with two-turn experience, despite the emphasis in juvenile racing turning to routes in the fall.

This is probably because 2-year-old routers do not seem to run freakish times as often as sprinters do. Last October at Keeneland, for example, the top winning Beyer Speed Figure for a 2-year-old in a maiden route race was the 83 posted by Court Vision, who would go on to win the Iroquois and Remsen. By comparison, six juveniles had run higher Beyers in sprints.

My feeling is that route horses are not of lesser quality. Racing a route just happens to be more demanding for a young horse, making a fast time harder to achieve. But having raced long, they're better prepared for future races.

The belief that maiden route winners make good wagers gets a test Saturday in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park when West Side Bernie, a maiden winner at Monmouth Park going a mile and 70 yards in his Aug. 28 debut, takes on seemingly faster opponents.

The 70 Beyer Figure he posted first out trails by far the last-race figure of Retap, who ran an 86 in finishing second in the Mountaineer Juvenile, and to a lesser extent falls short of the recent Beyers of Proud Jefe and Tar Beach.

Nevertheless, I remain encouraged by the experience West Side Bernie gained in his debut. He had the early misfortune of getting sideswiped by another rival a few strides from the gate, causing him to stumble and lose position, circumstances that would have beaten many young horses.

Fifth on the inside, taking dirt in his face down the entire backstretch, he had reason to fold. Instead, he rallied four wide on the turn and surged past his opponents.

By any measure except time, it was a banner performance - one that makes him the choice of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile.

Beyond Ready hot longshot

Those looking for a live longshot on Saturday's Kentucky Cup card may wish to give a look to Beyond Ready in the Sprint. Hiked up in class following a sixth-place finish in allowance company at Delaware Park, he figures to be ignored against a deep field that includes Fatal Bullet and Salute the Sarge, multiple stakes winners over synthetic tracks.

But I like Beyond Ready for the precise reason that he is racing in stakes company off such a poor performance. It reflects the confidence that trainer Larry Jones has in the gelding.

If he bounces back to his best - and he's a horse that won three in a row before his latest - he has a shot at a price.

Stream Cat tough favorite

Stream Cat is the most likely winner of the Classic, although at 2-1 on the morning line in the six-horse field, he won't offer the opportunity for a large payoff.

Lightly raced with just two starts this year, Stream Cat should appreciate a class drop from the Grade 1 Arlington Million - a race in which he ran sixth - into the Classic, a soft Grade 2.

Also benefiting him is a return to Turfway's Polytrack, a surface over which he has shown a liking in two starts. He won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile over this strip in 2005, and last year was third behind Hard Spun and Street Sense in this race.

Although his chief opponents Zanjero and Honest Man are graded-stakes-winning runners, they are not in the same league as Hard Spun and Street Sense.

Stream Cat is facing an easier field than the one he caught last year, though he isn't catching much more pace. As in last year's race, when Hard Spun was able to set soft splits, Saturday's Classic again figures to have a slow tempo, with longshot Canela and Honest Man being the front-runners most likely to benefit.

But as Stream Cat proved in beating a loose-on-the-lead Cosmonaut in the Arlington Handicap on turf this summer, his powerful turn of foot allows him to quickly catch a leader in a slow-paced contest - provided of course, he isn't chasing Hard Spun.