01/27/2004 1:00AM

In the end, it's Action This Day


One month before the Breeders' Cup, few people had even heard of Action This Day, let alone factored him into their handicapping for the Juvenile.

Yet, with one sweeping move, vaulted from unknown to champion. His last-to-first flourish was not only good enough to win the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, it catapulted him to the head of the 2-year-old class.

In a year that saw many 2-year-olds fire big races, Action This Day's shot was heard the loudest, as he became the 16th BC Juvenile winner to be crowned champion. Although he won the Eclipse Award quite handily - receiving 114 out of 245 first-place votes - Action This Day was one of 13 juveniles to receive first-place votes.

Cuvee, who won three graded stakes but finished last in the Juvenile, was second in the voting, with 23 first-place votes. Birdstone, the third finalist, had 23 first-place votes, followed by Lion Heart, who had 22.

Action This Day is a son of Kris S. out of the Trempolino mare Najecam. On the advice of Ron Ellis and Seth Semkin, B. Wayne Hughes, who built Public Storage into a huge dollar business, purchased Action This Day for $150,000 at the 2002 Keeneland July Sale.

Trainer Richard Mandella - who also trained juvenile filly champion Halfbridled - said that, in the summer, Action This Day could barely put one foot in front of the other. But Action This Day's change was as dramatic as it was quick. He made his debut at Del Mar on Sept. 5, encountering some traffic trouble and finishing second, seven lengths behind Coldntight.

Twenty-three days later, on opening day of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, Mandella ran Action This Day in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race. Action This Day sliced his way through traffic and rallied from 12 lengths back to win by a nose. Those two efforts, combined with the fact the Breeders' Cup was at his home track of Santa Anita and that many stakes-winning 2-year-olds were skipping the race, prompted Mandella to run in the Juvenile.

"He's a colt that was the ugly duckling in April that turned into the swan in August and just blossomed and had done everything right," Mandella said. "It was pretty obvious he wanted to run all day when we ran him in his first race. I had the feeling he was coming forward as fast as a horse could come."

Action This Day is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 8. He will try to become the first BC Juvenile winner, and the first 2-year-old champion since Spectacular Bid, to win the Kentucky Derby.