09/01/2004 11:00PM

And the Spa award goes to...

Email

With only Saturday's Forego Handicap for sprinters left on the Grade 1 menu for Saratoga 2004, it's probably a safe time to look back at the meeting and crown its top performers in each division.

Two-year-olds: Afleet Alex won the meet's two graded stakes for 2-year-old colts, scoring a big and beautiful victory on a fast track in the Sanford and a narrow and ugly one on a wet track in the Hopeful. He's the horse to beat for the divisional lead. Honorable mention: Devils Disciple, fast and game nearly upsetting the Hopeful; Proud Accolade, a dazzling maiden and allowance winner; the statebred blowout debut winners Galloping Grocer and Blue Sunday; and Scipion, who showed unusual acceleration winning his debut from far, far back.

Two-year-old fillies: Sense of Style won her debut and then the Spinaway with similarly professional romps. She's not unusually fast, but she does everything the right way. Honorable mention: Maiden winners Alfonsina on dirt and My Typhoon on turf.

Three-year-old colts: Birdstone's Travers victory off a 12-week layoff confirmed his high quality and put him into Eclipse consideration. Honorable mention: Purge ran a dandy Jim Dandy and will be a dangerous horse up to nine furlongs.

Three-year-old fillies: Society Selection pulled off the rare Test-Alabama double to emerge as a threat to Ashado for divisional honors. Honorable mention: Christophe Clement swept the division's grass stakes with the improving pair of Seducer's Song in the Lake George and Spotlight in the Lake Placid.

Older males: Roses in May had his Grade 1 coming-out party winning the Whitney in a brave effort, proving himself more than a needs-the-lead type. Honorable mention: Evening Attire recaptured his best form, and Funny Cide was a gutsy second in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup.

Older females: Azeri was equally impressive beating Sightseek in the Go for Wand and succumbing to Storm Flag Flying after chasing brutally fast fractions in the Personal Ensign. Honorable mention: Storm Flag Flying may never be the filly she was two years ago, but for her to come back at all, and to win a Grade 1 race named for her granddam, has been a testament to perseverance.

Grass males: Congratulations to Better Talk Now, Nothing to Lose, and Silver Tree on their graded stakes victories, but it didn't seem there was a grass male at the meet with any true championship potential. The 3-year-old Artie Schiller may have the best turn of foot of any of them.

Grass females: Wonder Again's lengthy Diana victory sent her to the front of the Eastern grass fillies, and she could be a factor this fall. Unless the Diana and Sword Dancer are scheduled not to conflict with the Beverly D. and Arlington Million in the future, though, they are going to be Grade 1 races in name only.

Sprinters: The Forego result is pending, but it's hard to imagine anyone being more impressive than Speightstown was winning the Vanderbilt. A 6-year-old, Speightstown can duel without crumbling and has a second gear for the stretch. Honorable mention: Lady Tak completed the admirable double of winning the Test at 3 and the Ballerina at 4.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher has a good chance to break his own standard of 35 winners last year, had a five-winner day on Monday, and dominated the 2-year-old races. Honorable mentions: Zito, for Birdstone and three debut winners; Bobby Frankel, who won at better than 30 percent despite clearly gearing his operation for a big September and October; Patrick Biancone, who was outstanding with 2-year-olds and got a Grade 1 with Pomeroy; and Dominick Schettino and Pat Reynolds, who make their debuts on the Spa leaderboard and showed high-percentage records with limited stock.

Jockey: By the time you read this, John Velazquez may well have broken his own 2003 record of 61 winners. Honorable mention: Edgar Prado may simply be the best in the game right now and gave a riding clinic winning five on Travers Day.

Owner: Michael Gill, the pariah of American racing, is the leading owner at the world's most famous race meet despite having to van his horses in from distant training centers because New York tracks won't give him stalls. Officials should either prove their suspicions about Gill, write rules to discourage his aggressive claiming tactics, or stop discriminating against him. Honorable Mention: Ned Evans, Chester and Mary Broman, and George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable, for multiple victories with homebreds; and William S. Farish for his patience with Alumni Hall, who made his racing debut as a 5-year-old in April and four months later ran a creditable fourth in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup.

Horse of the Meet: Take your pick among the following: Afleet Alex, Azeri, Birdstone, Society Selection - and whomever provided you with your biggest or cleverest victory at the windows. If you haven't had one of those yet, you still have three days left.