10/27/2004 11:00PM

Distance no problem for Juvenile cast

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LAS VEGAS - Without the winners of the major Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the door opened for longshot Action This Day ($55.60), a colt who was ideally suited to 1 1/16 miles while most of his competitors were sprinter or milers. With a short field of legitimate contenders in this year's Juvenile, it is not the time to look for an Action This Day or Anees ($62.60 in 1999) to come from the clouds and light up the tote board.

Roman Ruler is from the first crop of Fusaichi Pegasus, the only son of Mr. Prospector to win the Kentucky Derby. Fusaichi Pegasus has had many good-looking winners here and in Europe, but it was Roman Ruler's early brilliance and his high-profile trainer, Bob Baffert, that made the freshman sire an immediate hit.

Roman Ruler is a half-brother to El Corredor, whose stakes victories include the Cigar Mile Handicap and Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (twice). El Corredor also won the Pat O'Brien Handicap and finished second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Jerome Handicap. Brilliant in his first two races, Roman Ruler finished second by a neck to Declan's Moon in the Del Mar Futurity and then won the Norfolk Stakes. Facing modest opposition in the Norfolk, Roman Ruler won easily by four lengths in a public workout.

Baffert has been in this situation before. The question is whether Roman Ruler turns out to be another Officer, who finished fifth as the 7-5 favorite in 2001, or Forest Camp, who finished sixth as the 5-2 favorite in 1999. Or will he be more like Vindication, who won as the 4-1 second choice in 2002? The feeling here is that the best is yet to come from Roman Ruler.

Afleet Alex has already proven to be a better horse than his stakes-placed full brother Unforgettable Max. A winner of his first four races, including the Sanford and Hopeful stakes, Afleet Alex finished a good closing second to Proud Accolade in the Champagne Stakes. As a son of Northern Afleet out of a Hawkster mare, Afleet Alex should have no problem going two turns at Lone Star.

The most impressive performance by a 2-year-old this year at Saratoga was the 6 1/2-furlong maiden victory by Proud Accolade. His second race, an allowance also at 6 1/2 furlongs, was a carbon copy, and in his third start, he stretched out to win the 1 1/16-mile Champagne Stakes to remain undefeated. Proud Accolade is the top runner from the wildly successful first crop of speed influence Yes It's True. His immediate female family produced stakes winners Big E E and Hesabull.

Consolidator put it all together to win the Breeders' Futurity

at the Juvenile distance. The $1.25 million Storm Cat colt is out of the Crystal Glitters (by Blushing Groom) mare Good Example, a Group 3 winner in France. Consolidator is a full brother to stakes winner Mycatcandance. His third dam is Nancy Jr., winner of the 1967 Kentucky Oaks.

As expected from a son of Charismatic (now standing in Japan), Sun King was bred to be better as he matured and at longer distances. Fourth in his career debut in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga, Sun King looked like a future stakes winner in just his second start, when he and Patriot Act (a son of A.P. Indy trained by Neil Howard) put on quite a show in a one-mile allowance at Belmont. Sun King finished third in the Champagne after being uncharacteristically close to the pace.

He is the latest member from his female family to show talent. Sun King is a half-brother to 1996 Futurity Stakes winner Traitor and to Ocean Drive, who is a multiple stakes winner this year on grass. Their dam, the Clever Trick mare Clever But Costly, also produced two daughters who produced stakes winners. She is the dam of Artful Pleasure, the dam of Peeping Tom, and Clever Bertie, the dam of Hurricane Bertie and Allamerican Bertie.

The three wild cards in the Juvenile are the Europeans Scandinavia and Wilko, and Twice Unbridled. Scandinavia may not be the next Johannesburg, but he has shown ability and is another son of Fusaichi Pegasus who should

only get better with distance. Scandinavia is a half-brother to Composure, and his dam is by Alleged, two-time winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Bred to be adept on dirt as well as turf, he will offer value in his dirt debut.

Wilko also makes his dirt debut after 10 grass starts in Europe. He is by Awesome Again, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic and the sire of Ghostzapper. Wilko was third behind second-place Scandinavia in his last start, the Royal Lodge Stakes, but one other running line stands out. Wilko was second behind Shamardal in the Vintage Stakes back in July, and Shamardal, from the first crop of Giant's Causeway, is now considered one of the best 2-year-olds in Europe after his flashy recent victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes.

The maiden Twice Unbridled has run only twice, closing late after showing little speed. He has a license to mature into a nice colt. By Unbridled's Song, he's out of a Chief's Crown mare, and his female family produced Moscow Ballet and Mane Minister. Most importantly, his second dam is a half-sister to Mill Reef, European Horse of the Year and an influential sire.