12/30/2005 1:00AM

All the news that's fit to rhyme


ARCADIA, Calif. - Once again, with humble apologies to those who have spun far better verse, and wishes of a happy, safe, and successful New Year of 2006. May it be the one you are waiting for:

Before the year gets underway,
This ode to beasts with feet of clay
Who labored long and hard for all
To watch them answer bugle's call.
A nod to those who did survive:
The heroes of two thousand five.

A saint named Liam ruled the scene.
From Donn to dusk he wiped foes clean.
He had the stuff all champions need -
True stamina to go with speed -
Two deadly traits that all do fear,
Enough to earn Horse of the Year...

Unless your taste leans otherwise
Toward fairy tales and giddy sighs
At the mere mention of the name:
Afleet (pause) Alex, yes the same
Swift colt who lifted from its knees
The game of racing, if you please.

The rich got richer, nothing new
For Todd and Wayne and Bobby, too,
All firing bullets far and wide
With Dutrow on the wildest ride.
Suspended, served, then back again -
"Hey, Babe. Not bad." Might be a trend.

Hey Prado, Bailey, Bejarano,
Gomez, Stevens, Castellano -
The best, for sure, but numbers count,
Which means all bow to the amount
Of coinage racked up by the one
Known as Velazquez comma John.

The races most remember best
Were those that flew the BC crest.
The Mile, for instance, was a thriller
Thanks to Mr. Arthur Schiller.
And who in heaven would have known
Backyard was best for Pleasant Home.

Goodbye Ashado, three years and out,
With admiration. Here's a shout
For coming fun from Indian Vale,
Late-bloomers, babies-never fails
Just when the next bunch looks a cropper
Here comes some Fasig-Tipton topper.

The Met Mile played as if a dream.
Yes that was him, the Ghost (cue scream).
Yet some preferred to roam the land
With Perfect Drift, the wise old ham,
Or spend days lost, as in a mist,
Or fog, if Harry A. insists.

How can New York plead bankruptcy
When blessed with all that property?
They must be mortgaged to the hilt,
Or wracked with some survivors' guilt,
Since they were spared while other tracks
Were felled by nature's fierce attacks.

Rita, Wilma, grim Katrina,
Broken levees - no one's seen a
Year to match for watery woes,
As wind and rain and tornados
Caught Calder, Ellis in their trap,
Nearly took Fair Grounds off the map.

Then again, their fate is certain.
Not yet time to pull the curtain.
But what's to come when on that day
The wrecking ball arrives to lay
Historic Hollywood to rest,
And rip the heart out of the West.

Please note, the stars are growing dim.
They're hurt, or worse, gone on a whim,
Sent home too early from the dance
To make more like them - yeah, fat chance.
We might buy that when come the clones
Of Rock Hard Ten and Smarty Jones.

There's consolation. Some will be back
To thrill our hearts, pick up the slack.
Adieu and Folklore, Commentator,
Borrego gets there, sooner, later.
And then there's Mott, never fear,
With plot and lines of pure Shakespeare.

Hats off to Merv, who brought us joy
In chestnut Stevie Wonderboy.
First Samurai and Henny Hughes
With them how can the Derby lose
Stir in the Brother from out West.
Who knows, perhaps they'll pass the test.
One thing's for sure, one thing rings true:
No matter what men say or do,
The horses always have last say.
They balk, they cough, they bolt, they play,
And in the end, act like they know
The why and how of Giacomo.