06/25/2003 11:00PM

Which way will Pick 3 swing?


NEW YORK - In the first NTRA Summer Pick 3 two weeks ago, favorites lost in each leg, and some surprising results made for a payoff of $2,043. In last week's NTRA Pick 3, favorites performed like trained seals, and if you had it, you didn't need your driver's license to collect $29.40.

Whether Saturday's NTRA Pick 3 - composed of the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, the first leg of the New York Racing Association's Triple Tiara for 3-year-old fillies; the $175,000 Arlington Classic at Arlington Park; and the $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park - will trend toward either of the previous two extremes remains to be seen. But, the thinking is that this time it will be more of a blend of favorites and prices. At least, that's what I hope.

The NTRA Pick 3, which will again be shown live on CBS beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern, is not the only racing of significance Saturday. There is also the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park (I like favored Dublino because she always gets first run on Megahertz); the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs, which marks the North American debut of African sensation Ipi Tombe; and, as if the 3-year-old filly division weren't stretched thinly enough, there is the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park.

In terms of betting, however, the NTRA Pick 3 is the most intriguing item on Saturday's stakes menu, so they are the spotlight events, in race order.

Mother Goose

Yell is my selection. She finally raced up to her exceptional pedigree (by A.P. Indy, from Wild Applause) with a blowout victory in the Davona Dale three starts back. Then, after an uncharacteristically dull fourth in the Ashland, in which she may have been compromised by the speed-favoring nature of Keeneland's main track, Yell came back with a solid third in the Kentucky Oaks. Despite significant early trouble, Yell still managed to finish behind only Bird Town, who came back to win the Acorn, and Santa Catarina, who recently romped in the Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks. Yell has been pointed to this since, and a peak performance is expected.

As to the Pick 3, some may think adding Roar Emotion to the ticket could lock up this race. But, if I added one more here, it would be Final Round instead. Roar Emotion did win the Black-Eyed Susan most recently, but she may have been aided by a sloppy track, she came home slow, and she nearly blew a big stretch lead to a filly who did not run well either before or since that race. Final Round, meanwhile, comes into this off the two best races of her life, including a close third in the Acorn after a tough trip, and she will be the better price.

Arlington Classic

Lismore Knight is a strong play. He won the Summer Stakes last year over Wando, who won last Sunday's Queen's Plate by a city block; was good enough to get a 96 Beyer last November, finishing second to Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass winner Peace Rules; and moves back in with members of his own age group after beating a field that included six older horses at Belmont last month in his first start of the year.

In Pick 3's, I would also include European and Good Day Too, who both come from Ireland in sharp form, and whose Timeform ratings suggest they can be competitive in this spot.

Molly Pitcher

Here's where the Pick 3 gets interesting. Summer Colony will be a heavy favorite, and as the most accomplished mare in the race, she may very well win. Yet, although her near miss in the Pimlico Distaff last month looks good on paper, the race was slow (Summer Colony received only an 86 Beyer), and the winner, Mandy's Gold, came back to be crushed last week in the Ogden Phipps over the kind of sloppy track she loves. Moreover, Summer Colony was beaten in this race last year at odds-on. Yes, that was a tougher field, but she was in better form then.

I'm going with Alchemilla as my top choice, but I will also use She's Got the Beat and Enjoy. Alchemilla, who may be the controlling speed in a paceless race, and She's Got the Beat were a nose apart when first and second in a stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, while Enjoy ships in off a second to Azeri in the Milady at Hollywood.