06/19/2001 11:00PM

Derby Day produced string of 'bouncers'


PHILADELPHIA - That the Churchill Downs surface on Kentucky Derby Day was cement-like is not news. What has happened to the horses who won that day should be no great shock either.

The evidence is overwhelming that just about every horse who really tried on that unforgiving surface paid for it.

Let's start with Love at Noon. She won the first race on Derby Day, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.43, easily breaking Bet on Sunshine's track record. She earned a 107 Beyer.

On May 26 at Churchill, she raced in a $100,000 stakes. She finished second at odds-on. On June 16, she raced in $100,000 stakes at Hollywood Park. She finished second at odds-on. Her Beyers were 100 and 101, respectively.

Lake Pontchartrain won the second race. A tough 6-year-old gelding, Lake Pontchartrain ran six furlongs in 1:08.35. He got a 103 Beyer.

The horse raced next in the 11th race on June 2 at Suffolk Downs. He was 7-5 in that $150,000 stakes. According to the chart, the horse "bobbled and was pulled up.''

The third race on Derby Day, the $150,000 Churchill Downs Handicap, was won by Alannan. He raced seven furlongs in 1:20.5, crushing the track record. His Beyer was 113.

Alannan raced next in the Metropolitan Mile on Memorial Day at Belmont Park. He raced very well, finishing third by 2 3/4 lengths at 9-1. His Beyer, however, fell to 103.

The $100,000 Three Chimneys Juvenile was the fourth race. Open Story and City Street dead-heated for the win in 57.28 seconds for five furlongs. City Street has not run back. (His connections may want to consider a very long rest). Open Story ran next on May 28 in the ninth race at Churchill.

In their dead heat, the two 2-year-olds got an 82 Beyer. Off that race. Open Story was 8-5 in his next start. He finished fourth, beaten by

7 3/4 lengths. His Beyer was 69.

Do you detect a pattern here?

The fifth race was on the grass.

Dream Supreme won the sixth, the $150,000 Humana Distaff. She ran seven furlongs in 1:20.7, breaking the old track record and nearly breaking Alannan's new one. Her Beyer was a career-best 110.

Off the monster effort, she was 4-5 in last Saturday's $100,000 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont Park. Dream Supreme dueled with Dat You Miz Blue and was history by the top of the stretch.

Dat You Miz Blue won by 6 3/4 lengths. Dream Supreme was second. Her Beyer fell to 96.

Which brings us to the Derby itself. Monarchos got a career-best 116 and ran the second fastest winning Derby ever, 1:59.97 for 1 1/4 miles. After it was over, trainer John Ward suggested Monarchos was the fresh horse, that the race did not appear to have taken too much of him.

If he only knew then what the evidence shows now. It was almost impossible for a horse to run hard on that surface and not be affected by it.

Monarchos was nowhere in the Preakness and got a 99. He was buried by Point Given in the Belmont Stakes and barely registered on the Beyer scale.

Invisible Ink got a 109 when second in the Derby. He got a 94 in the Belmont. Thunder Blitz got a 103 when fourth in the Derby. He got an 85 in the Belmont.

Keep this name in mind - Congaree. Everybody knows how hard the horse had to run in the Derby. He attended the suicidal pace, took a clear lead in the stretch and was barely beaten for second in a heroic effort. He got a 109. Two weeks later in the Preakness, Congaree finished third again and got a 107. This has to be a superior animal.

As for Point Given, remember what Gary Stevens said after the Derby. It seemed, he said, as if the colt hadn't run at all. He wasn't tired. It was strange, Stevens said.

Perhaps what happened is that Point Given just shut down on that ridiculously hard surface. Maybe, the horse was smarter than all of us and just saved himself for another day.

The evidence thus far would suggest that Point Given's other days were pretty spectacular.