06/01/2004 12:00AM

Fashion still attracts some nice fillies


LAS VEGAS - In addition to the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, Belmont Park will run 10 other stakes this week, including the meet's first two 2-year-old stakes of the year, the Fashion for fillies and the Flash for colts.

The Fashion Stakes has been among the first stops for precocious 2-year-old fillies who were ready to win a stakes in late May or early June. Champions who won the Fashion include Affectionately (1962), Queen Empress (1964), Numbered Account (1971), Ruffian (1974), Dearly Precious (1975), and Before Dawn (1981).

Among the memorable runnings of the Fashion Stakes, two stand out.

Numbered Account, from Buckpasser's very first crop, won her five-furlong maiden debut on May 14, 1971 by 10 lengths and made her stakes debut in the Fashion in her second start against two well-bred fillies, Rondeau (Round Table out of the Bold Ruler mare Matriarch) and Bendara (Never Bend out of the champion Tudor Minstrel mare What a Treat). Four lengths behind Rondeau and Bendara in deep stretch, Numbered Account seemed hopelessly beaten, but accelerated so quickly (11.20 seconds) in the final eighth, she flew by the two fillies and won going away by three lengths. It was the beginning of a brilliant 2-year-old season.

Numbered Account was the last stakes winner trained by Eddie Neloy, who died suddenly on May 26, 1971 at age 50, just seven days after Numbered Account's victory. Based primarily on Neloy's success with Gun Bow, the Phipps family tabbed Neloy to succeed retiring Hall of Fame trainer Bill Winfrey (trainer of Native Dancer) in December 1965. Horses who became champions under Neloy's guidance during that period (1966-1971) were Buckpasser, Vitriolic, and Queen of the Stage, but he stated that Numbered Account was the most talented 2-year-old filly he ever trained. Beaten just once by members of her own sex, in the Adirondack Stakes, she won 8 of her first 9 races at 2, including the Spinaway, Matron, Frizette, Selima, and Gardenia. She was held in such high esteem, she was asked to return one week after her Gardenia victory to face males in the Garden State Stakes, including Riva Ridge and Key to the Mint. Racing back in just one week was ill-advised, as Numbered Account finished fourth, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths.

Like Numbered Account, champion Ruffian (from Reviewer's first crop) had an auspicious maiden debut on May 22, 1974, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 15 lengths in 1:03.00, one of the fastest debuts by any 2-year-old filly in history. Ruffian also made her stakes debut in the Fashion and dusted the well-regarded filly Copernica (Nijinsky II) by six lengths, once again running the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.00, which was a stakes record at that distance.

High-octane pedigrees

The field for this year's Fashion is filled with fillies by win-early sires such as Carson City (Mr. Prospector), Gone West (Mr. Prospector), and Gold Fever (Forty Niner), and one filly by freshman sire Lion Hearted (Storm Cat), not to be confused with this year's 3-year-old Lion Heart.

Limited Entry is by high-speed sire Carson City, and gets even more speed from her damsire, Copelan (Tri Jet). Copelan was a top 2-year-old and he became a very successful sire of speedy 2-year-olds. In addition to the great speed provided by her sire and damsire, Limited Entry's Darby Dan female family is all high-class. Her third dam, Glorious Spring, is a full sister to Roberto.

Passageway is by Gold Fever, one of those stallions who inexplicably, is a better sire of fillies than colts. His best runners have been the fillies Gold Mover, Golden Hurricane, and Ultimate Fever. Passageway also comes from a superior female family. Her dam, Navajo Pass, is a full sister to stakes winner Terlingua, a fleet 2-year-old who had a major impact as a broodmare, producing Storm Cat.

Western Princess is by Gone West, among the true royalty in the upper echelons of the breeding industry. Gone West was a miler who was able to carry his speed to win the Dwyer at 1 1/8 miles, and also finished second in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial. Gone West's worldwide appeal is due to the fact that his offspring win at the highest levels of competition on all surfaces (dirt, wet tracks, and turf) and many have won important stakes at classic distances. Western Princess is out of the Deputy Minister mare My Last Alibi, a half-sister to 1992 Alabama Stakes winner November Snow and Scatmandu.

Chocolate Brown is from the first crop of stakes-placed Lion Hearted, a son of Storm Cat out of stakes winner Cadillacing (Alydar), who is a full sister to Easy Goer. Lion Hearted finished second to Yes It's True in the 1999 Riva Ridge Stakes and also finished second to Successful Appeal in the Amsterdam Stakes. Successful Appeal and Yes It's True are the leading freshman sires this year. Chocolate Brown's dam is Twin Lights (Holy Bull), and stakes winners from this female family include Take Charge Lady, Director, My Gallant, and Zarbyev.

Like so many 2-year-old stakes, the Fashion is no longer a major race on the calendar, but this year's running includes some nicely bred fillies who may go on to greater glory.