05/31/2006 11:00PM

Why not try two singles - 'Fog' and Purim


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Lost in the Fog will undoubtedly be a single for many horseplayers betting the all-stakes pick four at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Coming off his first race of the year, a race he likely needed, he will be expected by many to return to the brilliant form he displayed last year that led to an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

I'm not about to disagree. Facing a fairly weak group in the six-furlong Aristides Handicap, he looks like a standout.

The problem is that this will be the majority opinion. So if you think Lost in the Fog will win, the key becomes finding the second single - hopefully one who isn't so obvious. For me, that horse is Purim in the Opening Verse Handicap.

A graded winner on turf and dirt, he has impressed me throughout his career with his blend of speed, class, and acceleration. Naturally speedy, he can be placed wherever the rider wishes, and when given his cue, he usually takes off.

He illustrated that in winning the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap earlier in the year, as well as in taking the Grade 3 Arlington Classic last year. The former came on dirt, and latter on turf. Both races were at his best distance of 1 1/16 miles.

As well as he ran in those races, his last race might have been his best. Racing in the Avers Wexler Illinois Owners Stakes, a restricted stakes race at Arlington, he rated kindly behind a run-off front-runner, and exploded late to win by 3 1/4 lengths over an outclassed group. He raced 1 1/16 miles on a good course in a swift 1:42.02.

To win the Opening Verse, he'll have to beat Senor Swinger and Rush Bay - two horses who could be overplayed. Senor Swinger will be bet off his 5-for-9 course record, and Rush Bay off a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in his last start. Both are legitimate turf runners, but they appear a step slower than Purim.

Four deep in Dogwood

The competition runs deeper in the two other stakes on the card, the Dogwood Breeders' Cup and the Texas Glitter Handicap.

I'll go four deep on my tickets in the Dogwood Breeders' Cup, using Ready to Please, Joint Effort, Victorina, and Humorous Gal.

Ready to Please, perfect in three starts this year, may get overlooked off a Fantasy victory in which she capitalized when runner-up Miss Norman twice bolted toward the outside fence. Ready to Please was fortunate in that race - but she is also placed appropriately in the Grade 3 Dogwood, as opposed to being in a Grade 1 or Grade 2.

As for the others, Joint Effort is a specialist over the Churchill Downs main track; Victorina has "paired up" big figures in her last two starts, though she has yet to race beyond six furlongs; and Humorous Gal won a fast first-level allowance over the Churchill strip recently with a four-wide trip.

Two ways to go in Texas Glitter

Atticus Kristy is the most probable winner of the Texas Glitter. Winner of the Shakertown at Keeneland last month, he was a tough-luck third behind Man of Illusion in the Aegon Turf Sprint May 5. Blocked in traffic for much of the race, he closed well to lose by a length.

I'll single him on one ticket and play him, Mighty Beau, and Western Kind on another.

So, I'll play two tickets. Beginning with the Opening Verse, followed by the Dogwood, the Aristides, and the Texas Glitter, the first ticket is:

A $2 pick four: Purim (No. 1) with Ready to Please (2), Humorous Gal (5), Victorina (6), and Joint Effort (7) with Lost in the Fog (5) with Western Kind (1), Atticus Kristy (4), and Mighty Beau (7). The ticket costs $24.

The second ticket singles Atticus Kristy, the likely winner of the Texas Glitter: Purim (1) with Ready to Please (2), Humorous Gal (5), Victorina (6), and Joint Effort (7) with Lost in the Fog (5) with Atticus Kristy (4). Cost: $8.