12/07/2004 12:00AM

Few bloodlines Derby-worthy

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LAS VEGAS - The major nine-furlong stakes leading up to the Kentucky Derby have always been the best barometer of victory in the Kentucky Derby. As any observer of the sport knows, 2-year-old form, especially over the past 20 years, has little to do with negotiating 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May. Nevertheless, it is always entertaining to look at the current juvenile crop and assess their chances for the classics.

American breeders' emphasis on speed at the expense of stamina over the last 30 years has finally taken its toll on racing in this country. The last three winners of the Kentucky Derby (War Emblem, Funny Cide, and Smarty Jones) were by sprinter/milers who were not expected to sire winners at 1 1/4 miles. Our Emblem, Distorted Humor, and Elusive Quality will never be mistaken as stamina influences, yet they each sired offspring who were able to get 10 furlongs as young 3-year-olds on Derby Day.

We are now breeding Thoroughbreds who are asked to sizzle two furlongs in workouts leading up to 2-year-olds-in-training sales in March and April when their skeletal system is not fully developed, and wonder why these fragile animals are raced so sparingly and are retired all too quickly. These horses may be sprinting 1 1/4 miles, but we are hardly improving the breed. The game is changing, and not for the better.

The following is an early pedigree analysis for this year's leading 2-year-olds with designs on next year's Kentucky Derby:

Declan's Moon (Malibu Moon-Vee Vee Star, by Norquestor) - A victory in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 18 should clinch juvenile honors for this undefeated gelding. While his young sire has been a pleasant surprise, there is simply no explanation for the speed and quality Declan's Moon has shown thus far. Aside from his dam's third-place finish in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes behind champion Silverbulletday, this female family has been generally dormant over the past four generations. By A.P. Indy and out of French Group 1 winner Macoumba, Malibu Moon should get offspring who do well at middle distances, but there is little substance in this female family. There is no questioning the talent of Declan's Moon, but his weak female line may come into play next year - or not.

Wilko (Awesome Again-Native Roots, by Indian Ridge) - Bred for turf throughout his pedigree top and bottom, Wilko is by a Breeders' Cup Classic winner who sired a Breeders' Cup Classic winner (Ghostzapper). His dam won once from 11 starts, his second dam was placed in a minor stakes, and his third dam is a half-sister to Blue Wind, a 3-year-old champion filly in England and Ireland. Wilko's Breeders' Cup Juvenile upset ($58.60) was the result of a colt who was still running at the end of 8 1/2 furlongs while the others were floundering. A win in the Hollywood Futurity would prove his BC victory was no fluke, and he would deserve the Eclipse.

Proud Accolade (Yes It's True-Proud Ciel, by Septieme Ciel) - Yes It's True was a Grade 1 sprinter who earned more than $1 million, and his runners were expected to be precocious at 2. A victory in the Hollywood Futurity could give him the juvenile championship. Proud Accolade's first two dams were not winners, but his second dam is a half-sister to Big E E and Hesabull. It is unlikely that Proud Accolade will be as effective at 1 1/4 miles.

Sun King (Charismatic-Clever But Costly, by Clever Trick) - Charismatic was never given much of a chance to make it as a stallion here and was sent to Japan. A late-blooming 3-year-old by Preakness winner Summer Squall, Charismatic won the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and Sun King should handle 1 1/4 miles despite the speed influence of damsire Clever Trick. Sun King is a half-brother to Traitor (a winner of Belmont's Futurity Stakes), Ocean Drive (a multiple stakes-winning turf filly this year), Clever Bertie (the dam of Hurricane Bertie and Allamerican Bertie), and Artful Pleasure (the dam of Peeping Tom).

Roman Ruler (Fusaichi Pegasus-Silvery Swan, by Silver Deputy) - By the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, whose first crop of 2-year-olds have impressed. Brilliant early at 2, but fizzled in Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Way too early to give up on; as the half-brother to Cigar Mile winner El Corredor, Roman Ruler has obvious ability. But his pedigree is questionable at 1 1/4 miles.

Rockport Harbor (Unbridled's Song-Regal Miss Copelan, by Copelan) - Like Smarty Jones, this Philly flash is undefeated and trained by John Servis. Winner of the Remsen and Nashua stakes, his pedigree is also similar to Smarty Jones's in that both his sire and damsire are brilliant (speed) influences. Not bred to be at his best at 10 furlongs, but will lightning strike twice?

Consolidator (Storm Cat-Good Example, by Crystal Glitters) - Winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at 1 1/16 miles, Consol-idator is a full brother to stakes winner Mycatcandance. With Crystal Glitters, Nodouble, and Tim Tam the sires of his first three dams, Consolidator should not have distance limitations and still has room for improvement.

Afleet Alex (Northern Afleet-Maggy Hawk, by Hawkster) - One of the most accomplished juveniles this year, he gets speed from his sire and a much-needed boost of stamina from both his sire (Hawkster) and second damsire (Hawaii). He should be best up to 1 1/16 miles, and while he might stay nine furlongs, it would be a surprise if he were as effective at 1 1/4 miles.

Galloping Grocer (A. P Jet-Little Evie, by Northrop) - By far the best runner by A. P Jet, a solid New York-based sire who was a sprinter/miler in Japan. Galloping Grocer's damsire is closely related to Dixieland Band, but it would be a stretch to see this colt as effective at 1 1/4 miles.