01/27/2004 12:00AM

Jockey Club releases Experimental Free list


The Jockey Club had a tougher time separating the top juveniles of 2003 than did Eclipse Award voters.

While Action This Day was a fairly handy winner of the Eclipse Award for top juvenile colt or gelding, he shared top billing from The Jockey Club in the annual with Cuvee and Ruler's Court. All three horses were assigned the standard 126 pounds in the Experimental Free Handicap, which is compiled for a hypothetical race run at 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

The last time three males received the same highweight was in 1946, when Cosmic Bomb, First Flight, and Double Jay all were assigned 126 pounds.

The choice for top-weighted filly was much more obvious - Eclipse champion Halfbridled, the undefeated winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, was assigned 124 pounds, four more than the multiple stakes winner Ashado.

The Jockey Club has published the Experimental Free Handicap annually since 1933. The weighting committee this year consisted of racing secretaries Frank Gabriel (Arlington Park), Mike Lakow (the New York Racing Association), and Tom Robbins (Del Mar Thoroughbred Club).

Action This Day earned his topweight assignment based on his upset win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He is the 15th consecutive Juvenile victor to win or share this honor.

"It was difficult, because we all know the Breeders' Cup did not have some of the top 2-year-olds competing this year," Lakow said. "We cannot take away that race from the winner. We felt one was not more impressive than, as it turned out, the other two."

Though Cuvee finished last in the Juvenile - his only start at 1 1/16 miles - his dominant performances in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup, Saratoga Special, and Belmont Futurity were too good to ignore, Lakow said. Lakow added the committee took into account that Cuvee came out of the Juvenile with an injury.

"He's a monster," Lakow said. "When he was right, when he ran his race, it was almost like he was unbeatable."

Ruler's Court did not compete in the Breeders' Cup, but Lakow said his 14-length win in the Norfolk "was probably the most impressive [performance] of the year" by a 2-year-old.

Birdstone, the Champagne winner, was next behind the top three, with 124 pounds, followed by Hollywood Futurity winner Lion Heart (123), Lane's End Breeders' Futurity winner Eurosilver (122), Minister Eric (121), and Chapel Royal (121).

The 124 pounds assigned to Halfbridled was one more than what was assigned to Storm Flag Flying a year ago, although both went 4 for 4 with three graded stakes wins. The two-pound difference between the males and females was the closest since 1996, when Boston Harbor and Storm Song also were two pounds apart.

"Frank, Tom, and myself, we were trying to compare 2-year-old crops, which is fillies versus colts," Lakow said. "The top three [colts] got beat. The [usual] spread is three pounds; we felt maybe we should close that spread a little bit."