03/15/2002 12:00AM

For the fifth time, a Meyerhoff homebred is top horse


To breed and own a Maryland-bred Horse of the Year is a rare accomplishment, unless you happen to be Robert E. Meyerhoff. When the roll call of 2001 Maryland-bred champions was sounded last week, a Meyerhoff homebred headed the list - for the fifth time since 1986.

Meyerhoff's homebred Grade 1 winner Include was unanimously voted Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, adding to an unprecedented streak that began with Include's sire, Broad Brush (in 1986-87), and continued with Valley Crossing (1993) and another son of Broad Brush, Concern, in 1994.

Here is a rundown of Maryland's champions:

* Include was undefeated in his first five starts (all stakes) as a 4-year-old last season, rising to prominence at Fair Grounds in the Whirlaway Handicap and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, then capturing the Jennings Handicap at Pimlico as a prelude to the most important victory of his career - the Grade 1 Pimlico Special.

Trained by Bud Delp, Include was also voted champion Maryland-bred older male. He earned $1,435,400 last season to push his career total to $1,532,560.

* Shine Again, older female. Take away Include, and Maryland's Horse of the Year almost certainly would have been Shine Again, one of two Grade 1 winners for the state in 2001. Shine Again won the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap for her owner/breeder, Allaire duPont, and trainer Allen Jerkens.

From 10 starts last season she had five wins (three stakes), one second, three thirds, and earnings of $469,750.

* Magic Weisner, 2-year-old male. The first stakes winner for his sire, Maryland-based Ameri Valay, Magic Weisner has made a local celebrity of his breeder-owner-trainer, Nancy Alberts, who waited decades for a horse of this caliber. Upset winner of the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes on Dec. 31, Magic Weisner has won two Maryland-bred stakes, the Goss L. Stryker and Deputed Testamony, in his two starts so far this year.

* Touch Love, 2-year-old filly. Campaigned by the always powerful Maryland combo of Skeedattle II (Willie White and Lou Rehak) and trainer Tony Dutrow, Touch Love (by Not for Love) put together a string of three wins, culminating in the Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes, before being sidelined by sore shins. Bred by longtime Marylanders Charles and Cynthia McGinnes, and purchased for $17,000 at the Eastern Fall Yearling sale, Touch Love earned $148,560 in her three juvenile starts.

* Saratoga Games, 3-year-old male. Saratoga Games, also trained by Dutrow, was the flagship runner for the remarkably successful Saratoga Friends Stable, consisting of Marion and Alvin Akman, Sondra and Howard Bender, Arlene and Herb Kushner, and Dutrow. A son of Carnivalay, Saratoga Games was bred in partnership by retired Gilman School headmaster Redmond Finney and purchased by Dutrow at the Eastern Fall Yearling sale for $22,000. Saratoga Games finished first or second in nine of his 10 starts last season, winning three stakes and earning $330,940.

* Sparkling Number, 3-year-old filly. With no obvious front-runner in this division, Sparkling Number took the title with an ultra-consistent record of five stakes wins or placings in as many tries. By Polish Numbers, Sunny Sparkler was bred by David Wade, manager of Richard Golden's Sycamore Hall Farm in Chesapeake City, Md.; she raced for Golden, having been purchased by Golden's trainer, Linda Rice, for $57,000 at the Eastern Fall Yearling sale.

* One Eyed Joker, turf runner. One Eyed Joker (by Polish Numbers) was sold by his breeders, Victor and Valerie Stevens, for $47,000 as a weanling at the 1998 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December Mixed sale. He waged a long and versatile campaign, exclusively on the turf, last season for owners David Hulkewicz and Mike Rainier and trainer William Perry, winning or placing in four stakes and earning $303,940.

* Disco Rico, sprinter. Maryland's famous speedster won five six-furlong stakes in 2001, highlighted by Pimlico's Grade 3 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap on Preakness Day. Purchased by owner Alfred DiRico for $82,000 at a Florida 2-year-olds in training sale, and trained throughout his career by Valora A. Testerman, Disco Rico earned $349,644 last season to boost his earnings to $532,244. Disco Rico, a son of Citidancer bred by the late C. Oliver Goldsmith, entered stud this season at Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md.