04/06/2005 11:00PM

Wood boils down to two new shooters

River Downs Photo
Bellamy Road might simply be better than all his Wood Memorial rivals. Or, he might run a clunker like he did in last year's Breeders' Futurity.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Remember how after the Gotham Stakes folks were marveling at the way Pavo, a 17-1 outsider, nearly won the race despite Alan Garcia losing his irons midway down the backstretch?

That, along with the fact that the top five finishers finished just 1 1/2 lengths apart, should tell you none of them deserves to be favored when they meet again in Saturday's .

Pavo's rider might have been ironless for the last half-mile, but consider that those four furlongs were run in 51.02 seconds, and the late-running Survivalist needed the entire stretch run to get by Pavo, Galloping Grocer, and Naughty New Yorker, with Byanosejoe close behind after altering course to the inside late.

Any Nascar fan will tell you 51.02 seconds is enough time to change all four tires, fill the tank with gas, and shoot a 30-second promo for next week's race on the circuit. Garcia could have dismounted for a hot dog and a Coke, climbed back aboard, and still beaten half the field.

And, please, nobody point out that the field was feeling the effects of a first half-mile in 44.59, because earlier on the card the 3-year-old Fortunate Storm - who had lost his first five starts by a combined 27 lengths - wired a maiden special weight mile with a first half in 44.55, and his final time of 1:36 checked in only .39 slower than the Gotham.

So that leaves the new shooters - Bellamy Road, Going Wild, and Scrappy T - still under consideration.

I like Scrappy T as a racehorse, because any bettor who likes live longshots has to have a soft spot for a horse whose last four starts were runner-up finishes at 23-1 and 10-1, a win in the Count Fleet at 11-1, and a tough-trip third in the Whirlaway at 11-1.

What bettors might not like as much, even though it was by design, is eight weeks off between the Whirlaway and the Wood. The overachieving Scrappy T will have to prove it to me. Again.

We are down to Bellamy Road and Going Wild. This is not exactly breaking news, because these well-connected colts stand an excellent chance of being the first and second choices in the wagering.

There are pros and cons for each of them.

Bellamy Road might simply be better than these horses. His pacesetting 2005 debut was among the most impressive performances by a 3-year-old at Gulfstream this winter, both visually and against the clock, and there was nothing leisurely about the fractions: He ran his second quarter in 22.19 seconds and widened at each succeeding call.

If you're going to give a plainly talented young horse a good litmus test, why not run in the Wood for $750,000, where all he might need to do to win is reproduce his last race?

On the flip side, there is the nagging matter of last fall's pratfall in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, where he was clear down the backstretch as the 2-1 choice but succumbed readily when confronted by Consolidator turning for home. What will happen when he is challenged at the quarter pole this time? Does he become emboldened by the fight and tough it out, or does he bounce off his good-figure race against only four overmatched rivals four weeks ago?

Things are not much clearer with Going Wild. On the one hand, any 3-year-old who runs three races in a row averaging a Beyer Speed Figure over 100, as he did at Santa Anita, is legitimate. He might well rebound to that level after falling off a few lengths behind the unbeaten Declan's Moon in a Santa Catalina - described by Daily Racing Form's Brad Free as " . . . a good race, nothing more" in DRF Simulcast Weekly.

But maybe it's all a mirage. Maybe they're just not that strong out there this year.

Consider that:

* Going Wild raced on his wrong lead through the stretch of the Santa Catalina.

* Third-place finisher Spanish Chestnut came back to tank as the favorite in the recent Lane's End at Turfway, backing up to sixth in a suspect field.

* The horse closest to Going Wild at the finish of the Sham was Papi Chullo, who is still a maiden after finishing a distant seventh in last week's Florida Derby.

I will cover Bellamy Road and Going Wild in multi-race exotics such as Aqueduct's late pick four, and the NTRA Spring Pick 3, which includes the Carter Handicap and the Illinois Derby.

As far as win betting is concerned, I'll make them each fair odds of 3-1 on my personal betting line, but whether that price will be available on either is doubtful.

On second thought, let's lower Bellamy Road to 5-2. After all, it is trainer Nick Zito's world so far this year, and we're just living in it.