12/15/2005 12:00AM

Which 2-year-olds will move up on stretch-out?


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Hollywood Futurity on Saturday and the Hollywood Starlet on Sunday pose similar challenges for handicappers. One of the keys to picking the winners of those races is to figure out which, if any, of the 2-year-olds who are proven only at sprint distances can run as well or better when they stretch out to 1 1/16 miles. Those who succeed can be major players in important stakes races at route distances as 3-year-olds. Those who do not handle the longer trip well may end up being successful only at sprint distances.

Some of the contenders have proven that they can be effective at route distances. Brother Derek led throughout going a mile at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 Norfolk. He followed with a nice race when he rallied into second then weakened and finished fourth of 14 in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

A.P. Warrior was seventh early and made good progress to finish second behind Brother Derek in the Norfolk. He then scored with speed to spare going a mile as the heavy favorite on the drop into an allowance race.

Bob and John won the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet by six lengths. Unfortunately he was disqualified and placed third. Although the stewards took away his victory, the fact remains that he rated kindly through a slow early pace, then kicked away nicely down the stretch in a route.

Fans of class-droppers must have loved Jealous Profit's plunge from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile into a 1 1/16-mile maiden special. Although he came up a nose short, he still earned a contending 86 Beyer Speed Figure.

The two most interesting sprinters in the Hollywood Futurity are Your Tent or Mine and Bashert. Your Tent or Mine graduated first time out against maiden specials going 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar in September, then stepped up into the seven-furlong, Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue and won by 2 1/2 lengths, with a 100 Beyer. If he can match or surpass that Beyer at 1 1/16 miles in the Futurity, he would be the horse to beat. Judging by the way he rated kindly while fourth early in that field of five, and by the way he erased a 2 1/2-length deficit and turned it into a 2 1/2-length victory margin with a 36.68 come-home time over the last three furlongs, I will give him the call in the Futurity.

Bashert shows a 99 Beyer in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special win, and a 97 Beyer in a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Best Pal at 6 1/2 furlongs. He stopped badly going seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, but the subsequent layoff suggests that he might have had a valid excuse for that race. Even so, he lost ground in the last furlong going six furlongs and 6 1/2 furlongs, so I will pass on him as he stretches out in the Futurity.

In the Hollywood Starlet, Balance is the proven commodity at the 1 1/16-mile distance with a solid win in the Sharp Cat at Hollywood on Nov. 27. Although she battled early in that race, the fractions were sensible. The catch is that she must prove that she is tractable enough to avoid dueling through a much faster pace versus the sprinters that are stretching out in the Starlet.

There is little doubt about the ability of Sabatini to handle 1 1/16 miles. She was last of 12 at the first call in her debut in a one-mile maiden special at Churchill. Sabatini unleashed an impressive stretch kick, took the lead in midstretch, and scored by five lengths with speed to spare. The concern is that she earned a solid but unspectacular 76 Beyer in that race. Nevertheless, improvement is likely second time out, and the pace scenario should suit her. She deserves to be used in the exotics at what should be a square price.

The X-factor in the Starlet is Meetmeinthewoods. She was a comfortable 5 1/2-length winner first time out in a six-furlong maiden special, and earned a 100 Beyer. A comparable figure would make her the filly to beat in the Starlet, but it remains to be seen if she can sustain her speed over 1 1/16 miles. The quick pace she set in that race (she was behind by a head at the first call and led the rest of the way) will convince some observers that she is very unlikely to be as effective at the longer trip, but in her defense, the 21.59- and 44.24-second pace of the race was appropriate for a six-furlong race run in a blazing 1:08.75. Although Meetmeinthewoods has done nothing specific to indicate that she won't be effective at the distance, it is still a good idea to demand a square price as she stretches out. If she is overbet, there might be money to be made by keying Balance on top in the exacta over Sabatini and sprinters Private World and True Xena, who finished first and second in the seven-furlong Moccasin. Those two should offer reasonable prices as they stretch out.