09/19/2004 11:00PM

Disregard most of this bunch


NEW YORK - From a Breeders' Cup context, we may not have been wowed as much this past weekend as we were one weekend earlier when Ghostzapper and Saint Liam showed they are strong candidates for the Breeders' Cup Classic by finishing one-two in the Woodward, and Magistretti established himself as a prime contender for the Breeders' Cup Turf by virtue of his impressive win in the Man o' War.

Still, there was something to be learned. If we didn't find a lot horses who are legitimate Breeders' Cup contenders, we identified a bunch who aren't.

The best way to discuss the weekend's stakes races is to address them individually:

Belmont Breeders' Cup: Senor Swinger loved the soft going, and he inhaled a predictably short Stroll. But it's important to remember that Senor Swinger was outrun by Breeders' Cup-class horses in the Arlington Million. Stroll may improve, but he will have to raise his game significantly in next month's Kelso to be a factor in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Jerome: Teton Forest's romp may have been slop-aided, but he earned a nice Beyer Figure of 110. I suppose his people could shorten him up for the Breeders' Cup Sprint if they wanted. Teton Forest got loose through a first quarter in a pedestrian 23.68 seconds, however. You would need a telescope to find him early in the Sprint with a similar fraction.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies: None of the other speed showed up, and Punch Appeal controlled a soft pace. Yet, her tank was still nearing empty late. Nothing here to concern divisional leader Sense of Style.

Kentucky Cup Juvenile: This race completely fell apart as recent Ellis Park maiden graduate Greater Good came from way back to win going away. His opponents gave him enough time to get there. The winning Beyer was only 81.

Kentucky Cup Classic: Roses in May stayed perfect this year with a decisive victory that was widely expected. He did prove that he can regress and still win - his Beyer of 105 was 9 points less than his Whitney - but he must bounce back up again to contend in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Turfway Breeders' Cup: Winner Susan's Angel is a deep, deep backup on trainer D. Wayne Lukas's roster for the Breeders' Cup Distaff, far behind Azeri and Stellar Jayne. His mention of the Indiana Oaks as her next start said as much.

Kentucky Cup Sprint: I doubt the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner will come out of this race the way Cajun Beat did last year. Like the Juvenile, this race went to pieces late as Level Playingfield, who had never been close in a stakes before, came from downtown to win going away.

Futurity: Winner Park Avenue Ball definitely took a step forward, but that is tempered with the belief that this was one of the weaker runnings of the Futurity in recent years. Heavy favorite and Southern California shipper Fusaichi Rock Star was dismal, leading one to wonder if the West Coast 2-year-old form is as strong as it seems on paper.

Matron: Not even a poor start could stop Sense of Style, who won decisively and ran considerably faster than Park Avenue Ball did winning the Futurity at the same distance. She is the heaviest future-book favorite from all eight of the Breeders' Cup races, and for good reason.

Ruffian: Sightseek won the way a 1-5 shot should, with absolute authority. If trainer Bobby Frankel opened the door to a start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff after previously ruling it out, he ought to step right on through. Sightseek, who was odds-on against Azeri when she lost to her in the Go for Wand, would be no worse than a close second choice in the Distaff betting. But Sightseek can't win a divisional title without competing in the Distaff, and probably needs to win it.

Atto Mile: You had to be impressed with the way Soaring Free won after battling on the lead all the way, and it is worth noting that he was beaten only a little more than three lengths in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile. But, dampening the enthusiasm is the fact that a seemingly out-of-form Perfect Soul rallied to be second and the expectation that Europe will be represented in this year's Mile with vastly tougher company than Soaring Free handled Sunday.

Some highly irrational rankings

Here's hoping the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Rankings won't have anything remotely to do with which horses are invited to oversubscribed Breeders' Cup races because, to put it diplomatically, they are a little off.

According to the rankings that were updated last Friday, Roses in May was not among the top 10 candidates in the Classic division. Forget about horses such as Midway Road and The Cliff's Edge being ranked, which itself is silly. Roses in May was nowhere to be seen despite the fact that the third-ranked horse was Perfect Drift, whom Roses in May defeated in both the Whitney and the Cornhusker. Even more amazing was Perfect Drift being ranked over Ghostzapper even though Perfect Drift has yet to win this year, while Ghostzapper has won the Tom Fool, Iselin, and Woodward in his only three starts.

These weren't the only howlers. How about Storm Flag Flying being ranked behind Stellar Jayne, Silent Sighs, and Island Sand in the Distaff division even though she just defeated top-ranked Azeri in the Personal Ensign? How about Island Fashion being the fourth-ranked sprinter? In her only sprint this year, Island Fashion nailed Buffythecenterfold in the Santa Monica. I guess that was a better race than the Dubai Golden Shaheen because the winner of that one, Our New Recruit, was ranked below Island Fashion. How about Sweet Catomine, winner of the only Grade 1 race so far for 2-year-old fillies - the Del Mar Debutante - being ranked eighth?

Hey folks, how about the World Thoroughbred Rankings being based at least somewhat in reality?