06/13/2002 11:00PM

Germany's breeders say nein to drugs


NEW YORK - A funny thing happened on the way to the finish lines of the three 1 1/2-mile classics run in England and America this past weekend.

In all three races - the English Oaks, the Epsom Derby, and the Belmont Stakes - two horses outstripped all of their other rivals by wide margins. You needed the patience of Job to wait for the arrivals of the third-place finisher in each case.

Kazzia and Quarter Moon finished within a half-length of each other in the Oaks, but it was 14 lengths back to third-place Shadow Dancing. High Chaparral and his Ballydoyle stablemate Hawk Wing were separated by two lengths in the Epsom Derby, but it was another 12 lengths back to Moon Ballad in third. In the Belmont, Sarava beat Medaglia d'Oro by a half-length, but third-place Sunday Break was another 9 1/2 lengths in arrears.

Who can fail to conclude that the number of horses that can stay the internationally recognized classic distance of 1 1/2 miles is dwindling? This has been true in America for many years, but the results at Epsom are cause for worry.

Commercial breeding interests insist that the contemporary Thoroughbred be fashioned primarily for distances between six furlongs and something a little beyond a mile. This fits in nicely with the prevailing American idea that most races should be run at distances that fall within those parameters. It makes it much easier to bet on such races and easier to assign speed figures if horses are running at more or less the same distance most of the time.

Now it appears that the malaise that threatens to turn American racing into a Thoroughbred version of harness racing, where virtually all of the races are run at a mile, is beginning to make inroads in Europe. Fortunately, the lords of European racing still card numerous races outside of the American distance model. Five-furlong heats are seen as frequently as races at distances of 1 1/2 miles and longer.

Perhaps we will have to rely on the German breeding industry to maintain a proper balance of stamina in the Thoroughbred. It is no coincidence that English Oaks winner Kazzia was bred in Germany by Roswitha Grunewald, as was the winner of the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup on the same day at Epsom, Boreal, a Gestut Ammerland homebred.

Like all European countries, Germany does not allow raceday medication of any kind. But the Germans go their European cousins one better. The German breeding industry will not allow a stallion to stand in Germany, nor a mare to be bred to a German-based stallion, if they have ever raced on drugs. Germany is producing clean horses, untainted by the infirmities which medication is meant to conceal. In the long run, the German method will produce beneficial results. In fact, it already has.

Further proof that Germany is getting it right was the performance of Salve Regina in the Preis der Diana (German Oaks) at Mulheim on Sunday. Bred in Germany by Gestut Karlshof, she was a 2 1/2-length winner of the 1 3/8-mile Group 1 classic. What makes her so interesting is that she is a full sister to Samum, the winner two years ago of the German Derby and the Grosser Preis von Baden, both of which are 1 1/2-mile Group 1 events.

Salve Regina will attempt to emulate her older brother when challenging males for trainer Andreas Schutz in the German Derby at Hamburg on July 7. Anyone concerned about the maintenance of stamina in the Thoroughbred should be rooting for her, as well as for Kazzia, who will go for the British Fillies Triple Crown in the 1 13/16-mile St. Leger Stakes in September, and Boreal, who runs next in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on July 27.

Royal math: Five days for 50 years

This week's Royal Ascot has been expanded to five days in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 50th year on the throne. The extra day will be next Saturday when Caller One may challenge Johannesburg in the newly named Golden Jubilee Stakes, formerly the Cork and Orrery Stakes, a Group 1, six-furlong sprint.

Caller One has been training at Newmarket for Jim Chapman Jr. for the last month. However, he lost a shoe during a workout last Sunday, aggravating a foot injury he suffered when he finished last in the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Sprint on May 11.

Chapman is working hard to have his two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen winner ready. If he makes it to the gate Saturday, he would become the first American-trained horse to run at Royal Ascot since Omaha finished second in the Ascot Gold Cup of 1936, one year after he had won the Triple Crown.

Chapman has ruled Western Pride out of Wednesday's Prince of Wales's Stakes in which Godolphin plans to step Noverre up to 1 1/4 miles for the first time. Banks Hill may be the value in that race as she should come on from her third in the Prix Ganay.

Others to watch at the Royal Meeting are Kyllachy in Tuesday's five-furlong King's Stand Stakes, Vinnie Roe in Thursday's Ascot Gold Cup.