10/06/2003 11:00PM

Hat trick times two

Jean Raftery/Turf Fotos
The filly French Village (above) was purchased specifically to contest the Florida Stallion series, unlike 2-year-old colt Sir Oscar, who is trained by Manny Azpurua.

MIAMI - Thirteen 2-year-olds have entered the finales of the Florida Stallion Stakes with an opportunity to sweep their division since the twin three-race series began at Calder Race Course in 1982. But when French Village and Sir Oscar go postward Saturday for the $400,000 In Reality Stakes and the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes, it will be the first time that two horses have attempted to complete a sweep on the same day.

Four fillies have come into the My Dear Girl with a chance to sweep, but only Nancy's Glitter (in 1997) was successful. Nine colts or geldings have entered the In Reality after winning the first two legs of the open division, and four of those - Smile (1984), Seacliff (1985), Naked Greed (1991), and Express Tour (2002) - completed the hat trick.

French Village and Sir Oscar have a lot in common. They are both undefeated, having combined to win their seven starts by an average margin of nearly four lengths. They are both well bred. French Village is a daughter of Jules, the late stallion who also sired multiple Grade 1 winner Peace Rules. Sir Oscar is by Halo's Image, a multiple stakes winner and one of Florida's up-and-coming young stallions. They both will race 1 1/16 miles Saturday, and neither has raced around two turns or beyond seven furlongs.

One significant difference between the pair is their connections. French Village was purchased specifically with the Stallion Stakes in mind by one of the sport's most prominent owners, and hails from a stable full of superstars. Sir Oscar, on the other hand, is from a one-horse stable and was bred by his owner, Oscar Novo.

French Village, who is on the small side at 15 hands, was purchased for $100,000 at the Ocala April 2-year-old sales by Eugene and Laura Melnyk. The Melnyks have about 60 horses in training and are annually among the world's leading buyers at yearling and 2-year-old auctions. Their stable includes Strong Hope, who upset Empire Maker to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes this summer at Saratoga. They have also campaigned stakes winners Graeme Hall, Marley Vale, Tweedside, and Lodge Hill.

"The Melnyks bought this filly and sent her to me specifically to run in the Stallion Stakes," said Bill White, perennially Calder's leading trainer. "She's a nice, well-mannered, good-looking filly. We could immediately see she was fast, and at no point did she ever do anything but train forwardly.

"I had a high degree of confidence in her going into the first two legs of the series. But even though she has a pedigree that suggests she wants to go a distance of ground, until they do it you just never know for sure."

Melnyk, who shared the 2002 Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing with Richard Duchossois, lives in Barbados, West Indies. Two years ago, he purchased Harry T. Mangurian Jr.'s Mockingbird Farm, now called Winding Oaks, in Ocala, and he plans to become more active in the Florida breeding program.

"Winning the My Dear Girl has been our No. 1 objective all along," said White. "It's not often any 2-year-old gets to compete for a $400,000 purse, and a victory on Saturday would put us in a position to become the Florida-bred juvenile champion. But completing a sweep is obviously significant - especially when considering only one other filly has done it in over 20 years."

Novo, who was raised in Palermo, Argentina, and lives in Miami, never keeps more than a single horse in training. The first horse he campaigned in Miami was Sir Oscar's dam, Miss Medallion. She won the 1998 Judy's Red Shoes at Calder, and, like Sir Oscar, was trained by Manny Azpurua. Sir Oscar is Miss Medallion's first foal.

"Right now, Oscar is going crazy, he's so happy about all of this," Azpurua said. "Ever since this horse was a little baby, he kept telling me, 'He's going to be in the big race. I know he's going to be in the big race.' And so far, his dream has come true. I don't know how far the colt will go or how good he can be, but right now he's healthy and has done everything right coming into the race."

Azpurua, a veteran Calder trainer who campaigns a modest but successful stable, had won only one Stallion Stakes race, the 1985 Susan's Girl with Cascade, before Sir Oscar's victories in the Dr. Fager and the Affirmed. Cascade finished second in both the Desert Vixen and the My Dear Girl that year.

"I didn't miss winning all three of the races by very much with Cascade, and it would be nice to finish the sweep on Saturday," said Azpurua. "And if he wins this one, I might even be able to convince Oscar to go out and get himself a second horse."