02/09/2007 12:00AM

Invasor is special; Nobiz Like Shobiz, not yet


PHOENIX - There was a lot going on recently, so it's time to take inventory:

* I voted for Invasor for Horse of the Year but it really wasn't until Saturday and his win in the Donn Handicap that I realized he may really be something special. He accelerated so easily to reach contention, then when disaster seemed imminent as he checked hard inside, he recovered nimble as a cat and blasted through to win geared down. He was much the best. I know Discreet Cat is unbeaten and will be in his own back yard for next month's Dubai World Cup, but it he isn't going to know what hit him come furlongs nine and 10 against Invasor.

* Certainly, my hand was up when they took a poll on whether Nobiz Like Shobiz is a prime Kentucky Derby contender, but I still don't quite get all the fuss and all the lists that rank him ahead of Street Sense and Circular Quay. It's not like he beat any top 3-year-old routers in the Holy Bull. Scat Daddy is not a router.

* It seems every time we're ready to deem Sweet Return washed up, the old guy runs big. Sweet Return hadn't won since he captured consecutive Grade 1's - the Charlie Whittingham and Eddie Read - in the spring and summer of 2005. His form since hadn't been too hot, including a dismal 10th-place finish in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in November. But trainer Ron McAnally wasn't convinced the horse was all washed up, and he was right. Sweet Return, facing a very tough bunch, including top miler Charmo and classy routers Bayeux, Ceverlo, and Atlando, used his speed to make the pace and slow things down, and then used his guts to stay there. There's no reason he can't be tough in next month's Gradeo1 Kilroe Mile.

Charmo, usually far back, made an early run because the pace was so slow, but tired and fell back. That early aggressiveness is not his preferred style, and this was also his first start since last May. He can benefit from the outing and a return to his usual waiting tactics in the Kilroe.

* There is no reason Keyed Entry can't have a big year as a top sprinter-miler. Last year he was a victim of his own route success. After a good third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, his connections believed - and they weren't alone - that his speed could be a factor in the Derby. Well, he was a factor - for about six furlongs. However, he hit the wall and stopped to finish 20th and last, behind the winner, Barbaro. Keyed Entry wasn't the same after that. He was given plenty of time off and looked like a superior sprinter-miler in Saturday's Grade 3 Deputy Minister. As long as he stays around one turn he should be awfully tough.

* Ravel looked good in just his second career start, winning the Gradeo3 Sham on Feb. 3, but was it just me or did Liquidity's second-place finish look a bit like Funny Cide's efforts leading up to his Derby win?

* Mom's Command, winner of the triple tiara - the New York 3-year-old filly triple crown, consisting of the Acorn, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks - and a winner of 11 of 16 career starts, was recently euthanized at age 25 after suffering from increasing infirmities brought on by old age.

She was a marvelous filly, following Dark Mirage, Shuvee, Chris Evert, Ruffian, and Davona Dale in winning the triple tiara. All of them are in Racing's Hall of Fame. Only Shuvee, along with Mom's Command, went on to win the Gradeo1 Alabama, yet somehow Mom's Command has not been given the respect she deserves - she's still not in the Hall of Fame. It's a blatant omission.

* I realize there is a clamoring for ways to best honor Barbaro. I think a Barbaro Award should be created. It would be given to a horse, trainer, rider, or anyone in the game of racing deemed to have best exemplified the courage of this great animal. Past winners could have been Bill Shoemaker, Randy Romero, Ron Turcotte, Jeff Lukas, Sandi Gann, and Dan Hendricks, to name a few. The Barbaro Award could become the sport's badge of courage.