LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When assessing the chances of a late-runner, many horseplayers believe the longer the better. That would appear to stand to reason, given that the closer has more ground to catch the leaders.\nIn most instances, particularly in routes, I beg to differ. What closers need, more so than distance, is a contested pace, something they're much more likely to receive in short routes.\nMost of the time these races draw more front-runners, and therefore more pace. This, in turn, sets the stage for late-runners' success.\nWith that in mind, Madeo's cutback from 1 1/4 miles on grass in the Hollywood Derby to 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride in Saturday's Grade 2 San Fernando figures to aid his chances.\nNearly half of the 12 entries are most comfortable on or near the lead, likely creating an honest pace.\nThat is exactly what Madeo needs to be at his best. In scoring his lone stakes win in August in the Del Mar Derby, he rallied behind a sharp half-mile in 47.26 seconds in the 1 1/8-mile race on turf.\nBy way of comparison, he tried to close behind a half-mile in 49.41 seconds when eighth in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby.\nNot that the pace was entirely his undoing in the Hollywood Derby - a highly troubled trip in which he was boxed in and trapped behind horses for much of the race was even more to blame.\nBeing by Mizzen Mast and already proven over synthetic tracks, Madeo can be expected to perform as well over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface as he did at Del Mar on the grass this summer.\nAnd if the pace unfolds quickly, as expected, look for him to move up a notch with a cutback in distance.\nSwitch to dirt a question for Bear Now\nMillionaire and seven-time stakes winner Bear Now, coming off an eighth-place finish behind Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, is the obvious class of Saturday's $60,000 Truly Bound Handicap at Fair Grounds.\nBut her apparent class advantage does not assure victory - not with the move from synthetic tracks to Fair Grounds's dirt track.\nAlthough Bear Now upset Octave in the Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap on dirt at Philadelphia Park last September, she has been less consistent on dirt than over synthetic tracks.\nA glance at her record illustrates this. She is 8-1-3 in 13 starts on synthetic tracks, compared to 1-0-1 in 7 starts on dirt.\nShe is 6-5 on the morning line, and I'll take a shot against her with a filly that looks to have a shot at a price: My Heavenly Sign.\nAfter an ordinary beginning to her career at age 2, she blossomed as a 3-year-old last year, winning 5 of 9 starts, capped by victory in the restricted Orleans Stakes at Delta Downs in her final start last year.\nMy Heavenly Sign faced exclusively 3-year-old opposition in stakes last year, and I believe the public will underestimate her. But if Bear Now regresses with the shift to dirt, that could prove a mistake.\nMy Heavenly Sign is well drawn on the outside, where she can stalk the pace and go after Bear Now when needed, and she appears to have an affinity for the Fair Grounds surface, having won her lone start there in January of last year.\nShe also comes off a sharp five-furlong work in 1:01 at Fair Grounds on Jan. 12, the second fastest of 40 at that distance that morning.\nStretch out should help Doc's Friend\nPreceding the Truly Bound in the eighth race on the Fair Grounds card, Doc's Friend, a 6-1 outsider on the morning line, merits a wager.\nBeaten 16 1/2 lengths in the Sugar Bowl Stakes on Dec. 20, he is dropping into a first-level allowance, a move that should get him back on his game.\nBut that is not the primary reason I like him. Rather, it is the stretch out in distance from six furlongs to a mile and 40 yards.\nThe move seems counterintuitive given that all five of his starts have come sprinting and that he faded from third to 10th in the Sugar Bowl.\nI expect some bettors will avoid him for that reason. Not me.\nHis Sugar Bowl failure did not prove he lacked stamina. It simply proved he was not up to keeping up in a fast-paced sprint stakes race.\nThese are easier allowance horses, and the pace of this race promises to unfold slower than the Sugar Bowl.\nFrom the outside post, jockey Gabriel Saez can sit patiently on Doc's Friend, allowing him to settle into a pace-pressuring position if another horse and rider are intent on the lead, or assuming the lead himself. Either way, a good trip in a surprisingly paceless field appears in order.