11/19/2002 12:00AM

First crop looking a little awesome

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LAS VEGAS - This has been a good year for the freshman sires of 2002. Distorted Humor, Elusive Quality, Touch Gold, Tale of the Cat, Coronado's Quest, and Grand Slam have all sired good-looking juveniles, and another young stallion raising eyebrows is Awesome Again, who had three impressive winners last weekend, capped by Toccet, who won the Laurel Futurity.

Awesome Again ended a brilliant, if brief, career, winning the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic over a star-studded field that included Silver Charm, Swain, Victory Gallop, Coronado's Quest, Skip Away, Running Stag, Touch Gold, and Gentlemen.

Unraced at 2, Awesome Again won 3 of 6 starts at 3, including the Queen's Plate and Jim Dandy Stakes, and finished third in the Travers Stakes behind Deputy Commander and Behrens.

Awesome Again was undefeated in six races at 4, culminating in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His other victories included the Whitney, Stephen Foster, Saratoga Breeders' Cup, and Hawthorne Gold Cup handicaps.

A son of prolific sire Deputy Minister, Awesome Again is out of the Blushing Groom mare Primal Force, and is a half-brother to champion 2-year-old Macho Uno.

Two stakes to Toccet's credit

Toccet proved that his Champagne Stakes victory was no fluke when he rebounded off a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to win the Laurel Futurity by 6 1/2 lengths.

In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Toccet faced a near-impossible task. At Arlington Park, 1 1/8-mile races start very close to the turn, and Toccet broke from the disadvantageous 13 post.

Toccet had no such problems in the Laurel Futurity, and he simply outclassed the field. He came out of the race in such good shape he may be wheeled right back in the Nov. 30 Remsen Stakes, in which he would face the highly regarded Empire Maker.

Before last weekend, Awesome Again had sired seven winners, and most of them were overlooked by bettors.

On the same day Toccet earned his second stakes victory, a first-time starter by Awesome Again dazzled in a maiden race at Hollywood Park. Ghostzapper, out of the Relaunch mare Baby Zip, won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by nine lengths, returning $25. Ghostzapper is a half-brother to the stakes-winning sprinter City Zip. While City Zip is by Carson City and was never expected to be effective beyond 1 1/16 miles, Ghostzapper should be able to carry his speed a good deal farther.

On Sunday at Aqueduct, Awesome Reef, a first-time starter by Awesome Again out of the Pleasant Colony mare Colonial Reef, won a six-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies, paying $10.60. Her dam, Colonial Reef, is a half-sister to four stakes winners, including Golden Reef, winner of the 1989 Schuylerville Stakes, and Virginia Carnival, a multiple stakes winner on grass.

Based on his high-class pedigree and performance on the track, Awesome Again was given good opportunities at stud and was bred to a good book of mares. In addition to Toccet, Ghostzapper, and Awesome Reef, Awesome Again's nine first-crop winners thus far include:

Awesome Action (colt out of Opinionated Lady, by Known Fact). He descends from a Phipps broodmare, Ambulance, who produced multiple stakes winner King of the Castle.

Awesome of Course (colt out of Mais Oui, by Lyphard). A half-brother to stakes winners Imperfect World and Monsieur Cat. Third dam is major stakes winner and broodmare Straight Deal.

Clays Awesome (colt out of Our Shopping Spree, by Talc). Another runner by Awesome Again who should prosper on turf.

Echeverria (colt out of Evil's Pic, by Piccolino). Finished second in the Ellis Juvenile Stakes. Dam's family is full of brilliant speed influences such as Piccolino, Medieval Man, and Tudor Gleeman.

Miss Awesome (filly out of Tanja, by Allen's Prospect). Has a win, three seconds, and a third in 10 starts. Bred for high speed.

Symmetron (colt out of Valid Symmetry, by Valid Appeal). Her dam is a half-sister to Swept Overboard.

Awesome Again's second crop, now yearlings, include a half-brother to Forest Secrets, a half-brother to Millencolin, a filly out of Breeders' Cup Turf winner Miss Alleged, a filly out of a half-sister to Tejano Run, and a filly out of the 1996 champion 3-year-old filly, Yanks Music.

Betting Awesome Again's runners

Awesome Again had speed and was able to carry it classic distances, and his offspring should be effective up to 1 1/4 miles.

If his runners are out of mares by speed influences (like many of his current juvenile winners), they should win early from distances starting at five furlongs.

From the Northern Dancer sire line out of a mare by Blushing Groom, his runners will always be at home on turf. Those runners out of mares by turf influences (such as Kingmambo, Red Ransom, Alleged, Pleasant Colony, Affirmed, Cozzene, Relaunch, or With Approval) should be played without hesitation on turf.