09/16/2004 11:00PM

Barretts babies shine in their own way


POMONA, Calif. - As far as they are concerned, the seven young guns going forth on Sunday in the Barretts Juvenile Stakes at Pomona's Fairplex Park are every bit the equals of the posh bunch getting all the attention on the same afternoon at Belmont Park in the race simply known as the Futurity.

Granted, it is likely that no one has heard of anything in the Barretts field outside their immediate families. And, no, the folks at the Breeders' Cup probably won't be on the phone right after the race is official.

But while the colts back East are touring their lazy mile around that eternal final turn at Belmont, the boys of the midway must come barreling out of the 6 1/2-furlong chute, tap the brakes just long enough to make the clubhouse switchback, gear up again for a hiccup of a straightaway, then plunge into the final hairpin turn with enough momentum to carry them to the wire.

As the young bluebloods make their way down the backstretch in the Futurity, a glorious expanse of greenery will frame their noble efforts. There are National Parks with fewer trees than Belmont. Out West, the Barretts bunch will perform before an L.A. County Fair backdrop of ferris wheels, waterslides, and pavilions featuring sheep, goats, cattle, and swine.

The straight run from the end of the turn to the finish line at Belmont is 1,097 feet. If you don't think that's a long way, just ask Smarty Jones. At Fairplex, the straightaway to the finish is 757 feet, only about a football field shorter than Belmont's. Blink and you miss it.

The Barretts Juvenile was first run in 1990. Since then the race has been won by Squirtle Squirt, winner of the 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award champion, and 13 other 2-year-olds of somewhat lesser accomplishments.

Belmont's Futurity was first run in 1888 - the same year Pomona was incorporated as a town - and has been won by Man o' War, Citation, Native Dancer, Secretariat, and Affirmed. Of course, none of them ever won the Breeders' Cup Sprint, did they.

In the end, the Fairplex Park fans are the lucky ones. They get to watch the Futurity, the Matron, and the Ruffian Handicap live from Belmont Park, stick around for the Barretts Juvenile, then linger at the fair and choose from a bountiful entertainment menu that includes Tower of Power, The Silverados, hypnotist Marc Savard, and Shahira and the Saidi Dancers. Plus fireworks. Oooooh. Ahhhhh.

The Barretts Sales Company, based at Fairplex Park, funds the bulk of the Juvenile (and its companion Debutante for fillies, contested the day before) through eligibility payments made by owners who have purchased a horse at certain Barretts sales. The Fairplex purse structure puts up $40,000, while fees push the total pot over $100,000. Last year, the Juvenile was worth $122,898.

This is more than any of the seven colts and geldings in Sunday's field brought as Barretts yearlings or

2-year-olds. The priciest of the lot is Twice as Fabulous, a son of the Green Dancer stallion Fabulous Frolic who went for $105,000 at the sale of 2-year-olds last May.

Twice as Fabulous is one of five first-time starters. The other two runners each have competed once without winning. While a field made up entirely of maidens is not precisely what the Barretts people had in mind when they introduced the concept, the events still serve a purpose. Call it added value on a catalog page.

"Let's face it, a lot of people won't run their horses on a five-eighths of a mile track," said Jerry McMahon, Barretts general manager. "The races allow a whole group of people the next level below to run for a really good pot. And sometimes, these are horses they haven't paid a lot of money for.

"Yes, the Juvenile produced Squirtle Squirt," McMahon added. "But by and large, these are horses that wouldn't get to run for this much money in another format."

The flagship Barretts sale remains the 2-year-old in training auction conducted in March. Juvenile starter Dover Dere emerged from that sale, although his price tag of $15,000 was far below the average price of $173,772.

Instead, it is a filly like Should Be Royalty who keeps Barretts on the national map. The daughter of Pine Bluff cost $600,000 at the sale last March and went to the Patrick Biancone division of the Coolmore horses. Should Be Royalty won at first asking at Saratoga last month and was second in a subsequent start.

Then there is Dubai Escapade, the daughter of Awesome Again who topped the 2004 Barretts March sale at $2 million. The buyer was John Ferguson for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin stable, and the filly was immediately whisked off to England, where she finished fifth of 11 in a five-furlong maiden race on June 2 at Nottingham Race Course, which is located, not surprisingly, quite near Sherwood Forest.

"I asked John about her when I saw him at Keeneland," McMahon said. "He said she didn't particularly like the going that day. So they're gearing her back up for another start."

Okay, so she gets another chance. But the five-furlong course at Nottingham is a straightaway. Maybe she was meant for the turns of Fairplex.