01/25/2005 12:00AM

Declan's Moon, Wilko dead even

Sweet Catomine (above), winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is weighted seven pounds higher than any other filly at 124 pounds. Declan's Moon is the co-highweight among males with Wilko at 126 pounds.

NEW YORK - The for 2-year-olds has been published annually by The Jockey Club since 1933. But the 2004 edition of the Experimental, which finds Declan's Moon and Wilko as the co-topweighted colts and Sweet Catomine as the topweighted filly, represents something of a first.

"This year, we based the Experimental on the NARC ratings," said Mike Lakow, racing secretary of the New York Racing Association, referring to the North American Rating Committee.

Lakow is one of three racing secretaries who compiled the Experimental. Frank Gabriel Jr. of Arlington Park and Tom Robbins of Del Mar are the others.

Traditionally, the Experimental has been weighted like any other actual handicap race, in which the racing secretary assigns weights to horses of varying ability with the theoretical purpose of bringing the field together in a dead heat at the finish.

"The NARC ratings have become the official ratings of the industry," Lakow said. "We stand by them."

Lakow pointed out that the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's graded-stakes committee uses the NARC ratings, and the same ratings are used overseas for international classifications.

The NARC ratings are the same as those incorporated in the World Thoroughbred Rankings that gain so much exposure during the run-up to the Breeders' Cup. Lakow, Gabriel, and Robbins are also members of NARC, as are Martin Panza of Hollywood Park and Chris Evans of Woodbine.

In the case of the 2004 Experimental, which is compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, the NARC ratings were applied to every 2-year-old who finished fourth or better in a graded or unrestricted stakes worth $75,000 or more run in the United States.

"Throughout the year, we do adjust these ratings," Lakow said. "For example, we'll go back and take another look at a five-furlong stakes to see if it was as strong or not as strong as we originally rated it. We make the appropriate adjustments, although we don't do that as much late in the year.

"With these horses," Lakow added, "we increased the ratings of the males so that the topweighted colts would be at their usual 126 pounds. With the fillies, actually with Sweet Catomine in particular, we went one pound over the standard because, like with Halfbridled last year, her NARC ratings were so good."

The standard 126-pound assignment for colts and geldings, which was given to both Declan's Moon and Wilko, was last breached by Favorite Trick, who was the 128-pound topweight in the Experimental of 1997. The standard assignment for fillies is 123 pounds, but Sweet Catomine was assigned 124 pounds, as was Halfbridled in the 2003 Experimental. The last filly to surpass the standard before Halfbridled was Countess Diana, who was assigned 125 pounds in 1997.

Declan's Moon and Wilko, who topped a group of 87 colts and geldings weighted, met last month in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. Declan's Moon won that race to extend his undefeated streak to four and clinch the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. Wilko finished third in the Futurity, beaten a length.

Before that, Declan's Moon won the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue. Wilko, meanwhile, recorded a 28-1 upset in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile after beginning his career by going 2 for 10 on the turf in England.

Sweet Catomine, who led a group of 66 fillies weighted, was an overwhelming choice as divisional champion, just as she was an overwhelming winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes. She also won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante after finishing second in her career debut.

The assignments given to Wilko and Sweet Catomine made this the ninth straight year that both of the winners of the two Breeders' Cup races for 2-year-old were respective topweights, or co-topweights, in the Experimental. The last topweighted male in the Experimental who did not win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was Maria's Mon in 1995, while the last filly topweight who did not win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies was I'm Splendid in 1985.

Weighted two pounds below Declan's Moon and Wilko at 124 pounds each were Afleet Alex and Roman Ruler. Afleet Alex won the first four starts of his career, including the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 2 Sanford, and was the victim of tough trips when a narrowly beaten second in both the Grade 1 Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Roman Ruler won 3 of 5 starts, including the Grade 2 Norfolk and Grade 2 Best Pal, but was upset by Declan's Moon in the Del Mar Futurity and finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Proud Accolade, winner of the Champagne but sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and fifth in the Hollywood Futurity, and Sun King, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Champagne, were each assigned 123 pounds.

As for the fillies, after Sweet Catomine there is an enormous gap of seven pounds down to Balletto, Sense of Style, and Splendid Blended, who were assigned 117 pounds each.

Balletto won 3 of 5 starts, including the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes. She was also second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and second to Sense of Style in the Grade 1 Matron. After winning the Grade 2 Spinaway, Sense of Style made the Matron her third win from as many starts. But, she followed with a fifth in the Grade 2 Alcibiades and a ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Splendid Blended won 3 of 4 starts, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. Her only loss was a second to Sweet Catomine in the Oak Leaf.

The last colt or gelding topweighted in the Experimental to win the Kentucky Derby was Spectacular Bid, who was a 2-year-old in 1978. He was also the last topweighted male in the Experimental to be voted champion at 3. The last filly topweight to win a championship at 3 was Surfside, who was a co-topweight among fillies in the 1999 Experimental.