12/12/2007 1:00AM

Fabulous Strike outside looking in

EmailPHILADELPHIA - Debates are few as the Eclipse Award ballots arrive. The only thing I can't believe is that the horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Travers, and Jim Dandy and lost by miniscule margins in the Preakness and Blue Grass is going to get no awards. But that is the deal for Street Sense whose move in the Derby was, for me, the unforgettable moment of 2007.

Curlin is going to be 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year, as he should be. It is just a shame there is no award for Street Sense.

Most of the categories are cut and dried. I am, however, a bit confused about one category. Horse A raced six times in 2007 and won twice with two seconds and two unplaced. Horse B raced four times with three wins and an unplaced. Horse A raced just once at a distance generally acknowledged to be the distance at which horses in this particular category should run. Horse B ran all of his races at the correct distances.

Horse A got Beyers of 124 and 108 in his wins. Horse B got Beyers of 117, 115, and 114 in his wins.

Horse A lost three times as a favorite. Horse B won both times he was favored and won the other race at 9-2.

Horse A won his biggest race when the horses in front of him completely collapsed, making his very good late run look much better than it really was. Horse B won his biggest race by dueling for the lead in very hot fractions and running away from the field in the stretch. Horse A is Midnight Lute, considered a lock for the male sprinter championship. Horse B is Fabulous Strike, America's best sprinter in 2007.

Midnight Lute, of course, won the Breeders' Cup Sprint, his only six-furlong race of the year. Which apparently makes him a cinch even though the colt is not really a sprinter. Nothing against Midnight Lute, but if Midnight Lute ever raced against Fabulous Strike at six furlongs, I don't think it would be close. Fabulous Strike would win easily, even if the pace were hot.

I thought Fabulous Strike's win in the Vosburgh was, by far, the most impressive performance by a sprinter I saw this year. This was domination by sheer speed, proving, once and for all, the 115, 119, and 117 Beyers he got at Mountaineer and the 115 he earned at Churchill Downs were anything but flukes.

I still have no idea how Midnight Lute got that 124 in the Forego, but that appears to be the fluke figure in the mix.

Look, we all love the Breeders' Cup, but was Midnight Lute's performance there better than Fabulous Strike's in the Vosburgh? By any objective measure, it was not as good. Yet, because it was the BC, Midnight Lute is the automatic award winner.

Fabulous Strike's only 2007 loss came when he went to Florida and ended up overheated in the paddock, acting up in the gate and nearly collapsing after the race. The horse had to miss the BC Sprint because of a lung infection he contracted after the Vosburgh.

Midnight Lute ran after the BC Sprint and was beaten at 1-2 in the Cigar Mile. Yet, he is still considered a lock. Why?

Sometimes, we just assume and forget to analyze. It is the easy way out and all of us are guilty at times. Sometimes, the conventional wisdom is just wrong.

* Speaking of the Breeders' Cup and the three new Friday races next year, anybody who has watched the amazing Smart Enough torment grass sprinters all over the East can't wait for him to get his chance to run down the hill at Santa Anita in October.

Smart Enough is 9 for 12 in grass sprints and has won $647,543. His trainer, Doc Fisher, told owner-breeder Fitz Dixon, a Philadelphia municipal icon - who once owned the NBA's 76ers and was the longtime chairman of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission - that Smart Enough was the horse he had been waiting for. Sadly, Dixon died before Smart Enough started all that winning. But don't forget Smart Enough next fall.