12/03/2001 12:00AM

Blazing Fury lost this battle but may be best in long run


NEW YORK - Super Quercus may have ridden the crest of one of the hottest and most sustained rolls seen in years when he provided trainer Bobby Frankel with his 17th Grade 1 victory of the year in Saturday's Hollywood Turf Cup. Super Quercus may have won the Turf Cup by an apparently decisive two lengths. But, if Super Quercus ever hooks up again with Blazing Fury, who finished third in the Turf Cup, I'm taking Blazing Fury.

That is because the Turf Cup was a tale of two rides. One, by Alex Solis on Super Quercus, was the picture of confidence and patience. The other, by Corey Nakatani on Blazing Fury, wasn't. And, the difference between the two played a large role in the outcome.

As the very unlikely Most Likely ran off to a huge early lead in the Turf Cup - is this a new trend in major Southern California turf stakes? The same scenario played out in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial in September - the question became, which rider among the contenders would blink first? The answer was Nakatani, and the answer came unnecessarily early.

Blazing Fury and Nakatani were only a length to two lengths ahead of Super Quercus through the early stages. But, going into the backstretch, with a full half of the 1 1/2- mile race still remaining, Blazing Fury was asked to make a run. He complied, ranging up on the outside to take a closer spot in the second flight, while putting some four to five lengths between him and Super Quercus.

On the far turn, with three-eighths of a mile to go, Blazing Fury was asked again, this time in earnest. Despite moving prematurely, despite being put into a drive too early, and despite losing ground while racing wide, Blazing Fury still managed to reach the front with a furlong to go.

In the meantime, Solis was biding his time. He sat still on Super Quercus when Blazing Fury moved the first time and remained chilly when Blazing Fury was put into his drive on the far turn. With Solis using his mount's resources more judiciously, Super Quercus understandably had a lot more left in the tank for the stretch run than Blazing Fury. Yes, Super Quercus blew by Blazing Fury late, and there may have been 2 1/2 lengths separating them at the finish. But, give Blazing Fury the ride Super Quercus got, and vice versa, and the result may well have been flip-flopped.

In any event, Blazing Fury is a turf horse to watch for next year. Blazing Fury was very impressive when he won the Saranac at Saratoga in his stakes debut, even though he beat a bunch of nobodies. Rarely do you see a horse finish and win off the way he did while clearly being totally unaware of what he was doing. His fourth at 51-1 in the Breeders' Cup Turf behind two monsters, Fantastic Light and Milan, was good, considering he was beaten less than a length for third by Grade 1 winner Timboroa. Most importantly, the Turf Cup was only Blazing Fury's eighth career start, meaning that as well as he ran, he still has considerable upside potential.

Durable filly doesn't need a rest

It's interesting how Xtra Heat coming back for more in this Saturday's Garland of Roses Stakes at Aqueduct is being greeted with some surprise. I suppose it has something to do with the fear that she may be going to the well once too often after two recent hard races, the Breeders' Cup Sprint and De Francis Dash. It probably also has something to do with how we've become accustomed to top horses rarely cracking the double-digit mark in yearly starts.

The Garland of Roses would be Xtra Heat's 14th start this season.

But, as recently as 1999, Artax made 15 starts during a campaign that saw him earn honors as champion sprinter. And, even though Xtra Heat is indeed coming off two hard races, many of her other races this year amounted to mere walks in the park. Trainer John Salzman has done a tremendous job managing this filly, so, why worry? Be grateful.

Hallowed Dreams good, not great

Hallowed Dreams made it 25 for 27 lifetime in the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Saturday at Fair Grounds, and I'm still not wowed.

The appreciation I have for Hallowed Dreams is very similar to how I feel about those old claimers and starter allowance horses who emerge every year and rip off 10 for 12 campaigns. They are admirable. They are testaments to heart and courage, and terrific management. But, they are not great.

Trainer Lloyd Romero deserves a lot of credit for his care of Hallowed Dreams, keeping her going for three seasons, and for his management, beautifully spotting her 25 times. However, if Hallowed Dreams ever wants to be considered great, or even special, let her take on another filly like Xtra Heat, and beat her. Until she does, Hallowed Dreams will be just like those hot claimers and starter allowance horses - a novelty.