01/02/2004 12:00AM

Inside look at the year's Grade 1's


NEW YORK - Island Fashion's impressive romp in the La Brea at Santa Anita Dec. 27 was the last of 2003's 101 Grade 1 stakes races in the United States. Looking only at those 101 races and their 102 victors (thanks to High Chapparal and Johar's lone Grade 1 dead heat of the year in the Breeders' Cup Turf), who were the year's biggest winners at the highest level of the sport?

Horses: The 102 Grade 1 victories were achieved by 77 unique horses. Of those, 60 won one Grade 1 apiece and 17 were multiple Grade 1 winners, six of whom won more than two such races: Mineshaft and Sightseek each won four Grade 1's while Aldebaran, Azeri, Congaree, and Empire Maker won three apiece.

The 11 two-time Grade 1 winners were Bird Town, Composure, Island Fashion, Funny Cide, Halfbridled, Heat Haze, Peace Rules, Spoken Fur, Starrer, Storming Home, Sulamani, and Tates Creek.

Trainers: Bobby Frankel set a record with 25 Grade 1 victories, more than three times as many as the runner-up, Richard Mandella, who won seven, including four on Breeders' Cup Day. Next came Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher with five Grade 1's apiece; Neil Howard with Mineshaft's four; then Laura de Seroux, Allen Jerkens, Ron McAnally, John Shirreffs, Barclay Tagg, and Nick Zito with three apiece.

Frankel trained 14 different Grade 1 winners, half of them multiple Grade 1 winners: Aldebaran, Empire Maker, Heat Haze, Peace Rules, Sightseek, Spoken Fur, and Tates Creek. They accounted for 18 of his 25 Grade 1's, with Continuously, Denon, Ghostzapper, Megahertz, Medaglia d'Oro, Milwaukee Brew, and Wild Spirit chipping in one apiece. When Eclipse Award finalists are announced on Monday, as many as six of Frankel's charges will be among the top three in their divisions but not one of them is the favorite to take home an Eclipse.

Jockeys: Jerry Bailey's 26 Grade 1 victories included 14 for Frankel. Throw those out and he still edges Edgar Prado, a distant second with 10. Patrick Valenzuela's seven and Alex Solis's six come next, and there was an eight-way tie for fifth: Robby Albarado, Pat Day, David Flores, Julie Krone, Jose Santos, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, and John Velazquez each won four.

Owners: Juddmonte Farms was the runaway winner with 11 Grade 1's, provided by Empire Maker, Heat Haze, Sightseek, and Tates Creek - all homebreds and the latter two half-sisters. So over 10 percent of the nation's Grade 1 races were won by the produce of just three mares.

Sires: The sire results are the most egalitarian of the bunch as the 77 unique Grade 1 winners were sired by 67 different stallions. There were only six sires of more than one Grade 1 winner. Those with three were A.P. Indy (who sired Indy Five Hundred, Mineshaft, and Passing Shot), Dynaformer (Film Maker, Perfect Drift, Starrer), Kris S. (Action This Day, Kicken Kris, Whitmore's Conn), and Sadler's Wells (High Chaparral, Islington, Perfect Soul). Pleasant Colony (Denon, Pleasantly Perfect) and Unbridled (Empire Maker, Halfbridled) each had two.

The 61 stallions who had one Grade 1 winner apiece were all over the map, from obscure sires such as Cool Joe (A Huevo) and Cobra King (Lunar Sovereign), to Storm Cat (Dessert) and his $500,000 fee, and such racing champions as Affirmed (Affluent) and Slew o' Gold (Passinetti).

Beyers: The average winning Beyer Speed Figure in the year's 101 Grade 1 races was a 106, the median a point higher at 107. Exclude the 11 juvenile races and the average creeps up to 108.

There were 39 winning performances that earned a 110 or higher and 15 that earned a 115 or higher, including four of 120 or better: Candy Ride's Pacific Classic (123), Alebaran's Forego (122), Cajun Beat's Breeders' Cup Sprint (120), and Congaree's Cigar Mile (120). At the low end, excluding 2-year-olds, were Dessert's 95 in the Del Mar Oaks, Passing Shot's 91 in the Personal Ensign, and Spoken Fur's 88 in the Coaching Club American Oaks. No Grade 1 race for males, 3-year-olds or older, earned less than a 104.

Odds: There were 24 odds-on winners, the shortest being Sightseek at $2.30 in the Go for Wand and Azeri at $2.40 in both the Milady and Vanity. Overall, 56 of the 102 winners went off at less than 3-1, including 17 of Frankel's 25. Only 21 of the 102 winners went off at 10-1 or better, and just nine paid 20-1 or more, with three of those nine coming on Breeders' Cup Day. Adoration was the longest of those three at $83.40 in the Distaff, topped for the year only by Buy the Sport's $98 mutuel in the Gazelle.

This year there are exactly 100 Grade 1 races on the calendar instead of 101, with four additions and five subtractions. The changes come a year too late to make Grade 1 winners of Beau's Town (Bing Crosby), Eurosilver (Breeders' Futurity), Redattore (Citation) or to add Dimitrova's ungraded American Oaks triumph to her Flower Bowl. The changes, had they come a year earlier, would have taken away Grade 1 victories this year from Aldebaran (San Carlos), Ashado (Spinaway), Cuvee (Belmont Futurity), Passinetti (San Juan Capistrano) and Trust N Luck (Fountain of Youth).