02/15/2005 12:00AM

Four with pedigrees ill-suited to Derby

Email

LAS VEGAS - If the trend continues, expect a 3-year-old such as Galloping Grocer, Greater Good, Proud Accolade, or Rockport Harbor - horses not bred to be at their best at 1 1/4 miles - to win the Kentucky Derby. The past three years have brought us War Emblem (by Our Emblem), Funny Cide (Distorted Humor), and Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality), three colts by stallions not particularly known for stamina.

I have written over and over again that this is the culmination of two factors:

* More than 30 years of breeding strictly for speed in the American pedigree with little regard to stamina.

* The rampant use of permissive - and non-permissive - medication.

It used to be, "Who can get the Derby distance?" Actually, most Thoroughbreds can get 1 1/4 miles, the question is, will they run it in 1:59.40, like Secretariat, or 2:04? While it has become fashionable to bash pedigrees because of the Derby results over the last three years, the bottom line is this: Who is bred to be most effective at 1 1/4 miles, and who will not be at their best with each additional furlong beyond one mile?

Here is the skinny on the four horses I mentioned at the top of this column.

Galloping Grocer: He had many excuses for not winning the Whirlaway Stakes last Saturday. He was making his first start off a two-month layoff and the race was around two turns; he never settled and was pressured every step of the way; and he suffered a superficial cut on a hind leg. But the bottom line is, he was supposed to win this race for fun if he was to be considered a serious Derby contender. That he not only lost but finished out of the money against a less-than-stellar field exposed his distance limitations. True, he did battle Rockport Harbor tooth-and-nail in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes last year, but that may be a combination of his quality and that he was a precocious 2-year-old, more advanced than his contemporaries at that time. He is by A. P Jet (a full brother to Tappiano, a multiple-stakes-winning sprinting filly), strictly a source of speed.

Greater Good: He is scheduled to run in Oaklawn Park's Southwest Stakes on Saturday, and it would be a major upset if he failed to win this mile event against an expected small field. Greater Good is running in the opposite manner of what his speed-oriented pedigree suggests. He is by Intidab (a son of Phone Trick out of a Mr. Prospector mare), and his dam, Gather Clan, is by General Assembly out of champion sprinter What a Summer (What Luck). Greater Good has already won twice at 1 1/16 miles, rallying from far off the pace in both the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. While General Assembly adds a much-needed boost of stamina, it would be shocking if a son of Intidab would be at his best at 1 1/4 miles.

Proud Accolade: There is no doubt about his immense talent - as a sprinter-miler. Proud Accolade was exposed in two races beyond one mile last year, and this son of high-speed influence Yes It's True could develop into one of the year's top milers.

Rockport Harbor: Like Galloping Grocer, he was bred to develop faster than most colts of his generation. He is not only by a speed influence (Unbridled's Song), his dam is by another speed influence, Copelan, one of the best 2-year-olds of 1982. In addition, his second dam is by Herculean (Bold Ruler), yet another source of speed.

Fallout from last weekend's stakes

The Whirlaway was won by Sort It Out, who is blossoming at age 3. The Whirlaway was his third straight victory, and while his sire, Out of Place, was a middle-distance stakes winner, the nine full crops of Out of Place firmly established him as a speed influence. But the high quality of Sort It Out's female family makes him interesting. His dam, Vex, is by Kris S. (stamina), and his second dam, Abrade, is a full sister to Kentucky Derby runner-up Forty Niner.

Scipion finally showed the same great acceleration in the Risen Star Stakes that he displayed in his maiden debut. A half-brother to 2-year-old champion Vindication, Scipion has 10-furlong horse written all over him. By A.P. Indy, he is out of a mare by the top stayer Strawberry Road, and his third dam is a half-sister to stakes winner and sire Cornish Prince, from one of George D. Widener's top families.

Real Dandy rallied to be second behind Scipion and is developing quickly. From the first crop of top miler Yankee Victor, he is out of Berga (Jade Hunter), a full sister to Diazo, winner of the Strub Stakes and Pegasus Handicap.

The disappointments in the Risen Star were favorite Harlington and Rush Bay, both of whom had outside posts. Undefeated in two starts, both over a sloppy track, Harlington looked green in the Risen Star and still has room for improvement. From the last crop of Unbridled and out of champion racemare and top producer Serena's Song, it would be folly to dismiss Harlington off one race. Rush Bay, who was second behind Greater Good in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, is better than his Risen Star effort, and he should eventually try grass, being by Cozene out of a Deputy Minister mare.

The San Vicente Stakes lost its luster when Roman Ruler was scratched. Fusaichi Rock Star (by Wild Rush), bred to be best up to one mile, won the seven-furlong race over Don't Get Mad, who made a strong rally to finish second. Don't Get Mad is from the first crop of Stephen Got Even (A.P. Indy), and is bred similarly to Gradepoint, who was on the Triple Crown trail early last season.

While Consolidator was a disappointing fourth and last, he was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths and should improve stretching out in his next start. A son of Storm Cat, Consolidator won the Breeders' Futurity and finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. I am not convinced he will be at his best at 1 1/4 miles, but Consolidator should have a say in the 1 1/8-mile Derby preps.