09/14/2004 11:00PM

From the home office in Saratoga . . .


Who were the fastest horses at the Spa in 2004? Here are the 10 most impressive Beyer Speed Figures for the Saratoga meeting.

10) Galloping Grocer earned a 95 in his debut, the highest Beyer Figure for any 2-year-old maiden winner at the meeting. That's impressive for two reasons. First, Saratoga is a veritable 2-year-old festival of racing, and second, Galloping Grocer is a New York-bred - so, outperforming the hundreds of other blue bloods is quite an achievement. Proud Accolade was a close second (with a Beyer Figure of 94), and went on to win an allowance race (Beyer of 88) later in the meet. He received an education in that second effort, learning to rate and move around horses. He is clearly being schooled for bigger and longer races.

9) Sense of Style won her maiden impressively by nearly seven lengths and earned the top Beyer Figure, 91, among 2-year-old fillies. She later won the Spinaway with a Beyer Figure of 88.

8) Afleet Alex won the Sanford with an impressive run around the turn and through the stretch, earning a 102. He struggled in the Hopeful, but still managed to get up in the last strides. His Beyer dropped to 90.

7) Sugar Punch and Sabellina, two New-York-bred fillies, share honors here. The sprinter Sugar Punch won twice, with figures of 95 and 96. Sabellina was impressive in her two wins on the grass (Beyers of 92 and 93). But her second victory was an all-out, draining struggle where she prevailed by only a desperate nose. That effort took its toll when her connections rushed her back again last weekend and she couldn't muster any energy at all.

6) Perhaps a horse like Devine Wind does not belong in such an illustrious list of big-Beyer runners. After all, he shipped in and was dropped to a $35,000 claimer on the turf. But he encountered all kinds of traffic and slipped through to win by a neck, in hand the whole way under jockey Ramon Dominguez - who seems to have developed this habit of "measuring" wins from his domination of the other riders at Delaware Park. Devine Wind's Beyer: 86. Two weeks later, Devine Wind turned in one of the memorable performances of the meeting. After trailing behind a very slow pace and being hung out in the four path around the first turn, he moved past horses on the backstretch and around the entire turn - still racing four or five wide. He ran everybody down in the stretch, earning an astounding figure of 89 against all odds.

5) Love of Money's allowance victory with a 105 Beyer was certainly fast, but few players took much notice of it at the time. But this performance deserves special mention as the most overlooked figure of the meeting. Love of Money went on to win the Pennsylvania Derby with a Beyer of 112.

4) One of the myriad stars at the meeting from trainer Todd Pletcher's barn, Speightstown extended his string of outstanding figures with his 117 Beyer in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

3) High Peaks wins the award for most-improved runner - hands down. His Beyer Figure jumped up dozens of points to a 97 when he won by eight lengths in the first week of the meeting. We were all waiting for him to bounce in a big way in his next start. But he nearly matched his earlier figure, earning a 95. He did slip a bit, however, winning by only six lengths.

2) Midas Eyes is another one who should have bounced but didn't. On Aug. 25 he showed up in allowance race and blitzed the field by nearly six lengths, earning a huge figure of 111. Even though he was not really asked to run much in that effort, you still had to be skeptical of his chances in the Forego, only 10 days later. Could he recover quickly enough to challenge top-quality sprinters like Clock Stopper? No problem. Midas Eyes won convincingly, improving his Beyer to 113. He showed the kind of resilience that you rarely see in today's Thoroughbred runners.

1) Roses in May, 114. Once again the Whitney lived up to its reputation as one of America's great races. Roses in May survived a vicious pace duel with Yessirgeneralsir and turned back the challenge from perfect-trip Perfect Drift to win by a nose. Yessirgeneralsir collapsed, finishing eighth, beaten 14 lengths. Peace Rules chased the extremely fast pace and finished more than eight lengths back. But Roses in May just kept on going, and turned in one of the most courageous performances in recent memory. His Beyer Figure, earned under the most extreme adverse conditions, was a clear number one for the Saratoga meeting.