06/30/2004 11:00PM

Get up to speed on these fast 2-year-olds

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Even more so than other races, early-season races for 2-year-olds are won by the swift. What constitutes swift? In Kentucky this spring, it can be defined as being able to run a Beyer Speed Figure in the mid- 70's.

Of the 43 races for 2-year-olds that had been run at Churchill Downs through Wednesday, 11 winners had run Beyers of 74 or greater. They are included in the accompanying chart, grouped by distance, ranging from 4 1/2 furlongs to 5 1/2 furlongs.

Given the quick nature of these races, many of them have produced multiple next-out winners. The third race from April 29 is a good example. The winner, Primal Storm, came back to win the Grade 3 Flash at Belmont and was third in the Tremont at Belmont June 26. Runner-up Smoke Warning also won his next race before running third behind Lunarpal in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup.

It is too late to capitalize by backing the starters from that April 29 race, as most of the better horses have already returned, but some of the other races may generate future plays, including on closing weekend at Churchill. The Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies will be run Sunday, and the Bashford Manor will be run Monday, the final day of the spring meet.

There is also a straight maiden race for males on Saturday's card, featuring the quick Consolidator - but his virtues are apparent on the drop from a stakes race. A maiden race for fillies is scheduled for Sunday.

The 5 1/2-furlong Debutante is expected to attract Sweet Miss El, Classic Elegance, Jules Best, Limitless Lady, Im a Dixie Girl, Runway Model, and Perfect Connection.

Sweet Miss El and Runway Model are included on the accompanying chart, each having won her maiden in fast time. Sweet Miss El ran one of the fastest 4 1/2-furlong races of the meet when she scored over subsequent winner Paragon Queen May 16. Runway Model, third behind Sweet Miss El that day, came back and ran quickly in winning a 5 1/2-furlong race.

Sweet Miss El also has the benefit of victory at 5 1/2 furlongs, having easily won an allowance June 18 that served as the prep for the Debutante. Despite a quick pace that set up her closing rally, her time of 1:05.20 was relatively slow, resulting in a 68 Beyer. She seemed to be coasting through the stretch, and appeared to have more in reserve.

Of the probable starters, my choice over Sweet Miss El in the Debutante is the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Classic Elegance, who ran third behind Lunarpal when racing against males in the Three Chimneys Juvenile May 1.

Pushed into a hot 21.75-second opening quarter, she seemed to have her heart broken by Lunarpal and weakened through the stretch as a result. Back against fillies, she should return to the brilliance she displayed at Keeneland in April - when she smoked 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.39 seconds.

The unbeaten Lunarpal heads the prospective lineup for the six-furlong Bashford Manor. Also expected to run are Raise Ole Glory, Proper Carson, Smoke Warning, Maximus C, and Copy My Notes.

Following a narrow win in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup, a race in which he prevailed by a neck at 1-10 odds, Lunarpal may appear beatable. Take note, though, that Lunarpal is the only 2-year-old in Kentucky this spring that has run more than one Beyer in the 80's - each time in a stakes.

Raise Ole Glory and Maximus C, two fast maiden winners that made the list of fastest 2-year-olds, appear to be the horses most likely to challenge Lunarpal.

Raise Ole Glory recorded the highest Beyer of any 2-year-old in Kentucky this spring, running an 87 Beyer in winning a five-furlong dash in the slop. That came on the heels of a third-place finish behind Maximus C in another quick race in the slop. Lukas, who is at his best with stakes-caliber 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, trains Raise Ole Glory.

Raise Ole Glory and Maximus C have not yet raced on a fast track, but should offer value in the Bashford Manor. The sloppy tracks over which they raced were tiring, somewhat "hiding" their speed in their raw times.

Beyond the stakes, keep watch in the weeks ahead for horses that were also-rans in these fast 2-year-old races from Churchill. Matched against easier rivals and with the benefit of experience against quick foes, they should move forward.