01/23/2007 12:00AM

Both 2-year-old champs eye Derby

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - The winners of the 2006 Eclipse Awards for champion 2-year-old and 2-year-old filly both have the Kentucky Derby on their agenda, their connections said while accepting Eclipse Awards Monday night at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons hotel.

Frank Calabrese, the owner of filly champion Dreaming of Anna, said "maybe she'll run against the boys in the Derby," when asked about her plans this spring. And Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Street Sense, said his colt was scheduled to have two preps this spring before the Derby.

"Our primary objective is to win the Kentucky Derby," Nafzger said.

No horse has won the Derby off just two preps since Sunny's Halo in 1983.

Thor's Echo camp celebrates loudest

This was the 36th annual Eclipse Awards dinner, and on the fun-o-meter, it might have ranked near the bottom. Winner after winner marched glumly to the stage, seemingly headed to the gallows instead of to pick up a trophy for a year-end championship.

Fortunately, there were a few people who realized the Eclipse Awards are, indeed, a cause for celebration.

The Emmy Award-winning actor Leslie Jordan had everyone in stitches with his tales of being, as he put it, "the worst exercise rider in the history of the sport" during his years with trainer Horatio Luro, long before he hit it big in show business. Jordan brought with him his Emmy Award, which was fractured during transportation.

"Look at this Emmy," he said. "If I can win it, it tells everyone to hang in there."

The connections of sprint champion Thor's Echo were the most boisterous bunch. Between the owners, trainer, and breeders, they purchased five tables of 10, and whooped it up every time either Thor's Echo or trainer Doug O'Neill were mentioned as finalists. They saved their biggest cheer for when Thor's Echo was announced as the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter.

"I've broken the record for goose bumps," co-owner Pablo Suarez said.

Fleet Indian going to Storm Cat

Paul Saylor, the owner of Fleet Indian, the winner of the Eclipse Award for champion older female, cited jockey Jose Santos for his skill as a horseman in realizing something was amiss with Fleet Indian in the Breeders' Cup Distaff and pulling her up.

Fleet Indian had pulled the suspensory ligaments in an ankle, but Saylor said it could have been worse had Santos not acted so quickly. That allowed her to recover faster.

"She's going to be bred to Storm Cat within the month," Saylor said.

Baze acknowledged as record rider

Russell Baze was one of the finalists for champion jockey, and though he lost out to Edgar Prado, he was cited for becoming the winningest rider of all time last December.

Todd Schrupp, who served as co-host of the event, had Baze stand at his table, and the crowd acknowledged Baze with a nice ovation.

Prado was unable to attend the event and pick up his first Eclipse Award. He was with his family in Peru on the one-year anniversary of the death of his mother.

The other dean

Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and the staff at the University of Pennsylvania, where Barbaro is recuperating, received a special Eclipse Award.

"This award is not really for us. It's for Barbaro," Roy Jackson said.

Dr. Joan Hendricks, the dean of the school of veterinary medicine, got off one of the evening's best lines. Referring to Dr. Dean Richardson, the now well-known surgeon who has overseen Barbaro's care, she said, "I'm not the famous Dean. Just the dean."