07/29/2003 11:00PM

Even 10 don't equal one Seabiscuit


PHILADELPHIA - Trying to go back in time and make Beyer Speed Figures for horses of another era is an intriguing concept. There are, however, too many unknowns to feel confident in their accuracy.

It is no leap of faith to believe Seabiscuit was your classic "no fig" in the 16 losses he suffered before winning his maiden. There is no evidence that trainer Tom Smith consulted a set of speed figures when he recommended that Charles Howard buy Seabiscuit for $8,000 eight months after the horse's 2-year-old season ended mercifully following 35 starts.

It is a reasonable assumption to believe that the Smith-trained Seabiscuit ran some huge Beyers in his two close losses in the Santa Anita Handicap. It is likely the horse ran an off-the-chart Beyer in the match-race victory over War Admiral, probably a best Beyer. And Seabiscuit's final vindication in the 1940 Big Cap certainly had to be a nice triple-digit Beyer.

What we do know is that the 10 horses who play Seabiscuit and other horses in the movie probably couldn't have beaten the real thing in a 10-furlong relay race. Some could run fast for a few movie frames. Others could sleep well. Some just looked good.

Mountain Skier was the unquestioned star of this stable. A 10-year-old gelding, he has won 18 of 98 races and $261,574. He had a best Beyer of 98.

Late last summer, however, Mountain Skier was non competitive in two bottom-level claiming races at Mountaineer Park. And he ended up going to the movies, where he got a little run as Seabiscuit.

The other nine major horse/actors are a combined 11 or 138. Seabiscuit lost a lot, but he often lost heroically. This bunch was not heroic on the track.

I Two Step Too won a $1,600 nonwinners-of-three-lifetime at Les Bois Park on Aug. 3, 2002. He got a 52 Beyer in the five-furlong race. He was recruited for the movie after that dazzling performance, his third win in 29 starts to that point.

What the now-10-year-old could do was run fast for very brief periods. He played his Seabiscuit role perfectly. No word on his split times.

His 15 minutes up, I Two Step Too returned to the races in January. Alas, he is winless in seven starts this year, but he is getting closer. He was beaten a half-length on May 10 in a $1,000 claimer and a neck on May 11 in a $2,000 claimer. Don't ask for an explanation of why he ran on back-to-back days. Perhaps it was an early Seabiscuit imitation. It did not last. I Two Step Too has not raced since.

Fighting Furrari was the cinematic star. He played Seabiscuit in many of the close-up crowd scenes. In real life, Fighting Furrari has raced 16 times. He won once, by a nose in a field of $5,000 maiden claimers on May 16, 2002 at River Downs, earning a 37 Beyer. He was not close in seven subsequent starts, but he really looked good on screen.

Dream of Alleged is 0 for 13. Most recently, he was beaten by more than 22 lengths in a maiden claimer at Albuquerque on April 11. He got a 21 Beyer.

Maidtospacejam played War Admiral in the match race. His previous brush with greatness was a maiden win at Wyoming Downs on July 30, 2000. He got a 20 Beyer. The horse was improving dramatically before being hustled off to Hollywood last summer. He had a best Beyer of 46 after a very tough trip in a $2,500 claimer at Yellowstone Downs on Aug. 24, 2002.

Cobra Flight, Verboom, Sher Shah Sooree, Popcorn Deelites, and Prisoner of War were bit-player horses. No wonder. They have six wins among them.

Popcorn Deelites, however showed that there is life after the movies when he won a $6,500 nonwinners-of-three-lifetime at Ruiodoso Downs on July 20. He got a 63 Beyer.

And Prisoner of War did finish sixth in a $10,500 claimer on Feb. 28 at Santa Anita, the same track where Seabiscuit finished his career in glory 63 years before. Prisoner of War got a 57 Beyer that day. Sketchy evidence suggests Seabiscuit's final Beyer was maybe 60 points higher.