03/19/2003 12:00AM

All sorts of talent under Florida sun


LAS VEGAS - Every year at Gulfstream fans watch for the rising young stars. It's one of the happier activities of a south Florida winter. And this year, there certainly was a fair share exciting debuts.

Quick Draw showed remarkable speed and courage in his sprints. Lion Tamer could be a major stakes prospect - even a possible contender for the Kentucky Derby. Christine's Outlaw has run two big races already. Region of Merit and Aristocat finished one-two in the Tampa Bay Derby.

There were many other lightly raced young prospects who used Gulfstream this year as a springboard to possible stakes careers: Yell, Strength Within, Bird Town, Posse, Rock Again, Tactical Delight, Cajun Beat - just to mention the most prominent. Others have already had some disappointing efforts after early successes at Gulfstream: Senor Swinger, Massive, Ten Cents a Shine, Eugene's Third Son, and Indy Dancer - if you can call Indy Dancer's third-place finish in the Florida Derby a disappointment.

The talent kept coming even in the week before the Florida Derby. In fact, some of the best young runners emerged only very late in the meeting.

Dynever: This Christophe Clement-trained colt debuted on Feb. 8 and had a very tough trip. He still finished second, only 1 3/4 lengths behind Nacheezmo, with a Beyer Speed Figure of 84. In his next start, on March 8, Dynever stretched out around two turns, rushed up to battle for the lead on the inside, and then drew off impressively in the stretch. His Beyer Figure improved to a 94. Although he might have benefited from a speed-favoring track, he looked powerful galloping away from the field by 8 1/4 lengths.

Grand Hombre: This first-time starter, trained by Dennis Manning, also was helped by the speed-favoring surface on March 8. He won his maiden by four lengths in a blazing 1:08.66. Maiden winners rarely break the triple-digit Beyer barrier, but Grand Hombre did it with an even 100.

Theology: Just like Grand Hombre (14-1), Theology was a surprise debut winner (18-1) in her first time around the track at 1 1/16 miles. Her performance was nothing short of spectacular. She broke three or four lengths behind the field, moved up into tight spots late on the backstretch and early on the turn, and had to steady twice, losing a lot of her momentum. She recovered quickly, slipped through toward the inside late on the turn, and closed under only light urging to win by 2 1/4 lengths. With a better trip her Beyer Figure of 86 could easily have been in the low 90's. Her trainer, Jim Bond, had her totally fit. She showed remarkable maturity and the promise of much bigger things to come.

Remind: This 3-year-old colt follows a long line of Bill Mott-trained grass horses with huge potential. His first win, on Jan. 22, was impressive, and he moved up to an allowance race on March 9 and wired the field in a seemingly effortless performance. His Beyers have not been overwhelming (85 and 84), and his trip on March 9 was not difficult at all, but he has done everything with ease and with plenty left in reserve.

Lady Prantlack: This is the filly version of Remind, but with Christophe Clement as the trainer. She won her first lifetime start with little trouble and then stepped it up a notch in her second start, in allowance turf company on March 14. As with Remind, her Beyer numbers have not been overwhelming (75 and 86), but she has looked the part of a high-quality grass runner with plenty of improvement yet to come.

Midas Eyes: In the Swale Stakes - just a short time after his stablemate, Empire Maker, somewhat belatedly fulfilled his promise - Midas Eyes overpowered a strong field, winning by 9 1/4 lengths in stakes-record time. He earned an astounding Beyer Figure of 110 for this seven-furlong romp.

As it becomes spring, all these young horses will be worth following and should stir up a welcome sense of anticipation and excitement over the next few months.