11/01/2004 12:00AM

Assessing the winners, and some notable losers


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - There were eight Breeders' Cup winners Saturday at Lone Star Park, and every one of them is rightfully getting the credit, and the ink, he or she deserves for succeeding on the grandest stage of racing in the world. But, there were 83 losers in the Breeders' Cup Saturday, and a few of them deserve mention, rather than being lost in the shuffle.

In the Distaff, Storm Flag Flying completed a wonderful career with a fine second-place finish. Instead of being able to make her move on her own terms, Storm Flag Flying had to wait, pick her way through on the rail, and wait some more. When she finally did get clear, she finished powerfully and was going decidedly better than Ashado at the finish. Stellar Jayne, who was nailed for second by Storm Flag Flying, was compromised by the draw with the outside post in a field of 11, and broke slowly, to boot. But she managed a menacing three-wide move around the far turn, and it is clear there isn't much between her and the best in the 3-year-old filly division.

No one was going to beat Sweet Catomine in the Juvenile Fillies, but Runway Model should have finished second, ahead of Balletto. Runway Model lacked room on the rail into the stretch, again in midstretch, and again in deep stretch. Sis City ran a terrific race to be beaten two lengths for second money after disputing a fast pace that produced a half-mile fraction (46.44 seconds) that was faster than the half-mile fractions in the Distaff, the Juvenile, and the Classic. The filly whom Sis City dueled with, Higher World, finished last of 12, 15 1/4 lengths behind her. What a great claim Sis City was for $50,000.

Taking nothing away from Mile winner Singletary, but narrowly beaten runner-up Antonius Pius got no help from jockey Jamie Spencer, whose previous unhelpful rides in this country on Powerscourt in the Arlington Million and Tycoon in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic makes more than a few wonder what such an astute trainer as Aidan O'Brien exactly sees in him. More on Spencer later. A strong case can be made that Six Perfections should have won the Mile for a second straight year. She was moving in company with Singletary late on the far turn when she got shut off, forcing her to be checked and resulting in her losing all momentum. With the way she got back on track late to be a fast-closing third, the top two were fortunate Six Perfections had the trouble she did.

Ouija Board was just too good in the Filly and Mare Turf. But it is a wonder why Wonder Again was so far back in the early stages. She had never been that far out of it early before, and what makes her early position even more confusing is the pace in this race through the initial fractions was anywhere from two to more than four seconds slower than the pace in the Turf. So, it is to Wonder Again's credit that she just missed finishing second.

In the Juvenile, Afleet Alex was four wide on the first turn and four wide on the far turn. This Breeders' Cup was not run at Belmont Park, where the wide, sweeping turns lessens the debilitating effects of ground loss. Afleet Alex lost the Juvenile by less than a length to Wilko. Do you think his trip had something to do with it? In big races such as the Kentucky Derby, and in big race days such as the Breeders' Cup, there is often some inexplicable betting action. But the support here for Twice Unbridled may be the most bizarre example. A maiden with Beyer Speed Figures 20 to 35 points lower than what his American-based opponents earned in their last starts, and a 100-1 shot if there ever was one, Twice Unbridled opened at 19-1, and blew out to only 33-1, and beat one horse. Absolutely incredible.

Kitten's Joy's strategy in the Turf was forced early when Powerscourt and Magistretti made their moves, and then he was angled in and out in upper stretch when in traffic behind opponents. More questionable riding from Spencer on Powerscourt. After breaking about four lengths slow, Spencer asked Powerscourt to make a ridiculously premature move down the backstretch. Maybe he thought the finish line was at the half-mile pole.

As for the Classic, we still don't know if Pleasantly Perfect is the same horse he was before he went to Dubai, because even though he won the Pacific Classic in August, it wasn't one of his best performances. It is hard to say if his flat third Saturday was due to Dubai, or the planned 69-day layoff he brought with him. But he is fresh for the Japan Cup Dirt.

The Breeders' Cup winners and losers did a lot to clear up the Eclipse Award picture. By virtue of demolishing five other Horse of the Year candidates and completing a perfect season in the Classic, Ghostzapper is a most worthy Horse of the Year and champion older male. Azeri was already champion older female.

Ashado clinched the 3-year-old filly title with her win in the Distaff, while with the losses Saturday of Birdstone and Kitten's Joy, Smarty Jones gets his 3-year-old male championship.

One race and one win is enough for Ouija Board to be champion female turf horse, and despite his loss, Kitten's Joy deserves champion male turf horse for the body of his work.

Speightstown resuscitated his faint hopes for the sprint title with his Sprint win, but he is still down two Grade 1 wins and a big Vosburgh loss to divisional leader Pico Central.

Sweet Catomine is an obvious 2-year-old filly champion, but after Wilko's upset, the 2-year-old male division is still undecided, pending the results of the Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club, and Hollywood Futurity.