11/20/2002 12:00AM

Bailey rates '02 juveniles highly

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - "I see this season's 2-year-olds as an above-average crop," said Jerry Bailey.

America's leading rider with more than $22 million in purses this year, Bailey names four horses as the pro tem leaders of the juvenile division.

They are Sky Mesa, winner of the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Lane's End Breeders Futurity at Keeneland; Vindication, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park; Empire Maker, impressive winner of his only start at Belmont Park; and American Mon, second in Aqueduct's recent Huntington Stakes on a sloppy track.

"Sky Mesa was pretty impressive at Saratoga," Bailey commented the other day from Florida. "I was a little concerned about the amount of vigor required of his rider at Keeneland to make him win, but he was still a lightly raced horse, a little green but immense talent.

"Vindication's time in winning the Breeders' Cup race wasn't fast, but he certainly has a sparkling record," Bailey said of the Seattle Slew colt who is undefeated after four starts.

Bailey also speaks highly of two colts he rides who have shown considerable potential. Empire Maker is a handsome individual who definitely prefers a distance of ground, and he has an outstanding pedigree. He is by Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and is out of Toussaud, dam of stakes winners Chester House, Honest Lady, Decarchy, and Chiselling.

American Mon, by Maria's Mon, also excelled in his debut: Bailey noted that he shaded 1:10 for six furlongs. Stan Hough, known for developing young horses, is the trainer of American Mon, who ran well to place in the Huntington.

Bailey added that no discussion of leading 2-year-olds is complete without the mention of Storm Flag Flying, undefeated winner of the Matron, Frizette, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trained by Shug McGaughey, she is by Storm Cat out of stakes-winning My Flag.

"If any filly can beat the colts, it is Storm Flag Flying," Bailey said. "I have chased her in several races and can tell you she is a talented filly."

Time has come for Mangurian

When the Eclipse Awards are announced at the annual dinner of champions at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Jan. 27, we hope that laurels for breeder of the year go to Harry Mangurian.

Mangurian has been runner-up for this honor the past three years, and during this period has had a record of outstanding accomplishment. For the seasons 2000, 2001, and most of 2002, horses he bred won almost $45 million, while the next breeder in the standings, Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm, won almost $26.4 million.

Remarkably, 97 percent of this breeding was done with mares owned by Mangurian and covered by stallions owned by Mangurian. As you may know, Mangurian began dispersing his bloodstock holdings for estate purposes about three years ago and no longer owns mares or stallions. But his achievements in the field remain vital and should be recognized.