04/05/2007 12:00AM

Zeroing in on Wood Memorial Day pick fours

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The $400,000 guaranteed pick four on the Bay Shore, Wood Memorial, Carter, and Excelsior commands the most attention on Saturday's Aqueduct card. It's useful to remember, though, that there is not a $400,000 carryover up for grabs, merely that the total pool is guaranteed to reach that amount, which seems assured given the pool for the same bet on Wood Day 2006, in the slop in miserable weather, was $479,909.

A look at last year's Wood Day charts shows that $186,278 was bet on the early pick four, and it paid $8,527, even with Luxembourg ($3.70) in the mix as the shortest-priced horse on the 11-race program. Meanwhile, the guaranteed pick four on the Bay Shore, Wood, Carter and a New York-bred allowance handled two and a half times as much but paid only $690.

The early pick four became interesting this year when entries were drawn on Wednesday and the first grass race of the year, for maidens at 1 1/16 miles, was carded as race 2, the first leg of the bet. Turf racing is a longshot here Saturday because of recent wet and cold weather.

The shortest price in the sequence may wind up being Hedge Fund in race 3, but you always have to be leery of a 4-year-old maiden making only his third start. The spoiler could be North Carolina, a 3-year-old who raced five wide in his debut at Gulfstream six weeks ago. Each workout since arriving in New York has been better than the previous one.

If I've made it to the third leg, a potential single in race 4 is Market Psychology, who is getting blinkers after chasing Indian Camp around the track in his return from a layoff in a first-level statebred allowance. Indian Camp goes in the Bay Shore later, and Market Psychology should find this an easier spot.

After Market Psychology's 7 1/2-furlong statebred allowance, the sequence concludes with essentially the same race for fillies going seven-eighths, where the one to beat is Talking Treasure.

If there's one skill bettors have learned in New York this winter, it's how to handicap the statebreds.

As interesting and important as the four stakes are, the late pick four is not a terribly enticing proposition unless you can get past the obvious contenders.

Bay Shore

Bill Place has been a potential trip playback ever since his last start in the "Cappy," when he bobbled, leaned outward, and took some contact while Wollaston Bay scooted off to the lead. Bill Place rushed up and lacked room, was shuffled back on the turn, and finished gamely when clear.

Bill Place has to beat Les Grands Trois, who has been impressive winning both of his starts. Les Grands Trois is short on experience but apparently long on talent, and the Bay Shore is a logical next step and a sign of trainer Bobby Frankel's confidence.

Beyond those two, I'm not a wise guy.

Wood:

I'm rooting for a breakthrough performance from Nobiz Like Shobiz, because like just about everyone else in the world I think he has it in him. We certainly didn't see his best in the Fountain of Youth, when he was wide on both turns and clearly unfocused early and late. The rail post and addition of blinkers here make it seem likely he'll have the lead going into the first turn, with Any Given Saturday prompting the pace outside.

Any Given Saturday has not raced at 1 1/8 miles, while Nobiz has done so twice, but he is clearly a serious horse, and one who is urgently in need of graded stakes earnings.

Again, if it's a horse other than those two, my tickets are dead.

Carter

This is the most wide-open among the four stakes. Latent Heat, Silver Wagon, and Keyed Entry have obvious merits and every right to win, while Ah Day and Diabolical also are fast enough on their best efforts.

Latent Heat was battle-tested twice at Santa Anita, and came through with flying colors beating quality opponents Spring at Last in the Malibu and Proud Tower Too in the San Carlos. Latent Heat's San Carlos was particularly impressive, because he was collared and fought back like a bulldog on the inside.

I'll key Latent Heat, but the other four are also in the mix to varying degrees.

Excelsior

I've got this down to Accountforthegold, Corinthian, Magna Graduate, and Happy Hunting (duh).

The more speed-friendly the track seems to be, the more I like the chances of Accountforthegold, who is as fast or faster than anyone else in the field but listed at 6-1 on the morning line. I'll probably wind up keying him and Corinthian, with the other two on back-up tickets.