02/20/2003 1:00AM

Windsor Castle good Donn deal


Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap is the premier race for older horses at the Gulfstream Park meeting. The $200,000 General George and the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie handicaps, rescheduled for Saturday at Laurel because of last weekend's blizzard, are important early-season sprint stakes on a national level. The search for a replacement for the fine female California-based sprinter Kalookan Queen, who has been retired, continues Saturday at Santa Anita with the $125,000 Las Flores Handicap. There are even a couple of races Saturday for what counts this time of year as the glamour division, 3-year-old males: Aqueduct's $75,000 Best Turn and the $50,000 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs.

There is a fair amount of important racing on Saturday, and what's great about it is that many of these races are terrific betting races. Here are three of them.


Harlan's Holiday is a very good horse who loves the Gulfstream main track, and he is a deserving favorite in this race. But he couldn't have drawn a worse post position than the 11 hole. Harlan's Holiday prefers to stalk from medium range. I don't see any way for him not to get hung up wide on the first turn, unless he is used more early to gain better position or is allowed to drop far back and tuck in. Neither is a good scenario. Even though he is the best horse in the race, Harlan's Holiday looks like a favorite to take a shot against.

My pick here is Windsor Castle. It is true that he was perfectly set up when he won the Hal's Hope last time out, when his late kick was aided by a destructive pace battle. I think this race will be won from off the pace, too. Keats and Mr. John figure to go at it early, and even if Mr. John lets Keats go early, Keats will still be pushed into quick fractions. And Keats is a question at 1 1/8 miles, anyway.

Windsor Castle is not only in sharp form, but he will also appreciate the added distance of the Donn. He won the Remsen at this distance at 2, and his two most recent attempts at nine furlongs were solid races.

Puzzlement also merits respect here. He finished furiously in his last start despite encountering only moderate fractions, and can make a forward move second start back off the layoff.

General George

In a tough call, I'm going with Kela over My Cousin Matt because Kela will be the bigger price, although the odds on both figure to be square.

Kela has been in with horses such as Congaree, Pleasantly Perfect, Momentum, and Kudos in his most recent races, and will face nothing like them on Saturday. Kela has a running style that suggests an extended sprint suits him, and he did win his maiden at this distance over a pretty fair sprinter named Orientate. What is especially intriguing about Kela is that some of his recent workouts jump off the page. That he ships across country for a spot like this off a layoff of nearly three months suggests strong confidence from the stable.

My Cousin Matt, meanwhile, was freshened after an unsuccessful trip to Santa Anita for the Malibu. I expect him to come back closer to the form that enabled him to romp in the Great State Challenge Sprint two starts back, and if he does, he will be a handful.

Las Flores

There is some serious early speed in here, and there are also lots of question marks, as illustrated by key layoff lines in the past performance records of every single entrant. Under these circumstances, fitness is as important as anything else, and that's why I'm going with Mon Ange.

At the very least, Mon Ange is fit. She recently returned from a layoff of more than nine months and won strongly. Mon Ange clearly retains her edge, as she delivered a best-of-68 workout last Saturday.

Mon Ange is also effective tracking the pace from close range, which means she can sit a nice trip here just behind what figures to be a destructive pace battle.