09/10/2002 11:00PM

If at first you succeed, why not keep trying?


ELMONT, N.Y. - In an era when so many talented horses are retired prematurely, Raging Fever and Gold Mover - two of the precocious juvenile fillies from the crop of 2000 - keep on performing at the highest level.

Now 4, an age when owner-breeder Edward Evans could have turned them into broodmares, Raging Fever and Gold Mover are still accomplishing great things on the track.

The two fillies have combined to win 20 of 39 starts, including 17 stakes, and earn more than $2.2 million for Evans and trainer Mark Hennig. Saturday, both will be in action on the same card when Raging Fever runs in the $300,000, Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap while Gold Mover seeks to defend her title in the $100,000, Grade 3 Floral Park Handicap. They are two of four graded stakes on Belmont Park's 10-race card.

Hennig, who had other precocious juveniles in 2000, such as With Ability, said there are a number of reasons why Raging Fever and Gold Mover have done well for so long.

"A lot of it I would attribute to their toughness and to Mr. Evans giving me the freedom to manage them as I saw fit," said Hennig, who also trains leading older filly Summer Colony. "He doesn't interfere; he lets me do what I think is in the best interests of the horses. We have had the luxury of spacing their races out and still hitting a lot of spots."

Raging Fever, a daughter of Storm Cat, debuted on May 25, 2000, at Belmont, winning a five-furlong maiden race by six lengths. Since then, she has competed in 15 consecutive stakes, winning three Grade 1's, two Grade 2's, two Grade 3's, and a pair of ungraded races. Her record of 10-4-1 from 16 starts is a testament to her consistency.

Her lone off-the-board finish - a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies - cost her an Eclipse Award as the nation's top 2-year-old juvenile filly, something that still gnaws at Hennig.

Raging Fever didn't have much of a 3-year-old year as she was found to have a fracture of the growth plate of her stifle following a third-place finish to Xtra Heat in the Beaumont at Keeneland in April. Raging Fever didn't make it back to the races until December, when she won the Garland of Roses Handicap.

Since then, Raging Fever has won the First Lady Handicap, the Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, the Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap. Most recently she finished second, beaten a half-length in the Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga.

Despite Raging Fever's nine stakes victories, Hennig believes her best performance came in the Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream earlier this year when she was beaten a neck by Cat Cay. Raging Fever had dueled with Tugger through scintillating fractions, put her away, and was just caught.

"She showed so much guts and determination that day," Hennig said. "I'm sure a lot of people would like to own her, train her, or ride her. She's been so reliable over a long period of time."

Hennig said how Raging Fever performs in Saturday's Ruffian could determine her future. While he and Evans have not ruled out running her in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Hennig is also considering trying her on the turf against the boys in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on Oct. 5 to see if she may be worthy of a shot in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Gold Mover has had an injury-free racing career. She won her maiden on April 26, 2000, at Keeneland and beat the boys in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in her second start. She has competed in 21 stakes, winning eight, including a trio of Grade 3's and a pair of Grade 2's.

Gold Mover, a daughter of Gold Fever, finished first in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but was disqualified for interference and placed second.

"I feel strongly she deserves to have a Grade 1 next to her name," Hennig said. "You'd like to believe that in a Grade 1 race they'd put some thought into [the disqualification]. I didn't think we were the sole cause for the problem."

After finishing second to champion Xtra Heat in the Vagrancy Handicap, Gold Mover upset Xtra Heat in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder. The two could meet again in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"She's always been pretty versatile," Hennig said when asked Gold Mover's strength. "The key to her is she can do whatever the race dictates. If she needs to lay off it, it's not a problem. The times she's won in front have been the times when the competition may not have been as good as she was."

Raging Fever and Gold Mover have certainly accomplished enough to be sent home for broodmare duties. But, Hennig said Evans is seriously considering keeping both in training next year

Too much of a good thing is never enough.