10/10/2006 12:00AM

Champagne has potential sparklers


NEW YORK - Until the advent of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, the Champagne Stakes was the definitive race for 2-year-old colts, deciding many juvenile championships.

In 1966, Dr. Fager, Successor, In Reality, and Bold Hour were all in a position to capture the championship. Dr. Fager had won the World's Playground Stakes and Cowdin Stakes. Bold Hour had won the National Stallion, Flash, Hopeful and Futurity Stakes. Successor had won the Tremont Stakes earlier in the season and came on strong late in the year. He wore down front-running Dr. Fager in a thrilling Champagne victory, finished second to In Reality in the Pimlico Futurity, and cemented divisional honors splashing his way to victory in the Garden State Stakes over Bold Hour, with In Reality fourth.

This year's Champagne features many lightly raced colts who could parlay a good performance into a berth in the seemingly wide-open Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Scat Daddy, from the first crop of freshman sire Johannesburg, looked strong earlier in the year, winning the Sanford and finishing second to stablemate Circular Quay in the Hopeful Stakes, and while his pedigree suggests the one mile of the Champagne is certainly within his scope, he is bred more for speed than stamina.

Got the Last Laugh is by Distorted Humor, who it seems just keeps siring quality runners year after year. Got the Last Laugh won his maiden debut and then won the Arlington-Washington Futurity in a dead heat with Officer Rocket in just his second start. Clearly, this is a colt with much upside, but he will be tested in the Champagne by other colts who have displayed unusual talent in limited opportunities.

Nobiz Like Shobiz, in particular, dazzled in his career debut, winning a one-mile race like a seasoned professional. He is, by far, the best-looking offspring by multiple stakes winner Albert the Great, and his particular pedigree pattern offers insight into his racing class.

For starters, his dam, Nightstorm (Storm Cat), is inbred 5x4 to Almahmoud, one of the most influential broodmares in history. Nightstorm has the half-sisters Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer) and Cosmah (dam of champion Tosmah, Halo) 4x3 in her pedigree. The most revealing aspect of Nobiz Like Shobiz's pedigree is his female family inbreeding to Swoon's Tune, an influential broodmare for C.V. Whitney.

Swoon's Tune produced Song Sparrow (Tudor Minstrel), the dam of Cormorant, and Cormorant is the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin, the sire of Albert the Great.

Swoon's Tune also produced Lilt (Herbager), the dam of Halo's Daughter, who, in turn, produced Nightstorm, the dam of Nobiz Like Shobiz. Thus, Nobiz Like Shobiz carries the Rasmussen Factor (RF), 5x4 to Swoon's Tune, and female family inbreeding such as this more often than not results in a Thoroughbred of significant class.

Big Timer is an intriguing prospect. He is by Street Cry, a winner of the Dubai World Cup who was also a major 2-year-old, finishing third behind Macho Uno and Point Given in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Bred to excel at distances over one mile, Big Timer is out of a mare by The Minstrel, and thus may be better suited to turf routes as he matures. He showed enough winning in Europe to warrant a trip to the United States He too, is an RF, as he is inbred 5x4 to Natalma through her son Northern Dancer (Nearctic) and daughter Raise the Standard (Hoist the Flag).

Liquidity, from the second crop of a two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, also has unlimited potential. Out of the Rahy mare Boa, he traces in direct tail-female line to the powerful King Ranch producers Bee Mac and Baba Kenny. Bee Mac won the 1943 Spinaway Stakes as well as the Hopeful against colts, and she became a cornerstone in the King Ranch operation, producing Better Self and Prophets Thumb. A Horse of the Year, Alysheba, and a group winner and major stallion, Lear Fan, also descend from Baba Kenny.

My Golden Opinion is by High Yield, winner of the Hopeful at 2, and the Blue Grass Stakes and Fountain of Youth Stakes at 3. High Yield, like most sons of Storm Cat, has turned out to be a prolific sire of grass winners, and My Golden Opinion gets additional turf breeding from his damsire, Distant View, a Group 1-winning miler in Europe. But High Yield certainly gets winners on dirt, and My Golden Opinion's second dam, Li Law, is a full sister to Banshee Winds, the dam of champion Banshee Breeze.

Pegasus Wind was highly regarded by trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who proclaimed that he was a special horse before he ever raced. While he has shown glimpses of brilliance, he has yet to live up to the billing while sporting a fancy pedigree. He is by Fusaichi Pegasus and out of a Meadowlake mare, Ride the Wind - a mating heavily tilted toward speed. His third dam, Aurania, is a full sister to stakes winner Euphrosyne, and his fourth dam, Sys Superstar, was a full sister to French champion Gyr.

Xchanger and Buffalo Man are also looking to make waves in the Champagne. Xchanger is by the underrated sire Exchange Rate (by Danzig), who has done surprisingly well considering the mares to whom he has been bred. Buffalo Man, by El Prado, has shown ability and was third in the Sapling Stakes.

Selections: Nobiz Like Shobiz, Got the Last Laugh, My Golden Opinion, Liquidity.