03/25/2002 1:00AM

A key race that just keeps on giving

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NEW YORK - It's funny how a race run nearly 17 months ago suddenly jumped back into consciousness Saturday, thanks to events on both sides of the globe.

The race is the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. At the time it was run, it didn't seem special, as $1 million Breeders' Cup races go. It didn't have a dominating performance and the winner earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99, which is only average. But the 2000 Juvenile proved later to be the springboard for Point Given. He lost by a nose that day, but then he lost only once in eight subsequent starts (the Kentucky Derby) and went on to be voted Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male of 2001.

It turns out the 2000 Juvenile was a common thread in some important results on Saturday, most notably the Dubai World Cup.

Street Cry, a rallying third in the 2000 Juvenile, was all alone at the finish of the World Cup, finally delivering on all the promise he offered as a 2-year-old.

There's a joke among New York horseplayers that Jerry Bailey has a "rail pass," and when he chooses to use it, all the other jockeys get out of his way. Apparently, Bailey's rail pass is good for use in Dubai as well. Why jockeys let anyone through on the rail in any race, let alone a $6 million event like the World Cup, is a mystery to anyone who remembers when race riding was a more cutthroat business. But for what seemed like the thousandth time, Bailey on Street Cry got through inside the staggering pacesetters, and the jockey's savvy, guts, and yes, good fortune were contributing factors to Street Cry's lengthy win margin. This is why the shrewd Godolphin people reached out for Bailey to ride Street Cry on Saturday in the first place, just as Sheikh Mohammed went to Bailey to guide Singspiel to victory in the 1997 World Cup.

Bailey's rail ride on Street Cry stands in stark contrast to the trip received by Sakhee, the Godolphin colt most of the world thought would win Saturday. Sakhee was five wide every step of the way, and even if he ran exactly like he did when nosed by Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall, it would have been hard for him to overcome losing that much ground. In fairness, it should be said that Sakhee appeared to be well below his Breeders' Cup form. Considering the way he acted punch drunk in the late stages, it wouldn't be a surprise if something went amiss, physically.

Up the track in 11th in the 2000 Juvenile was Noverre. He went on to become one of the best milers in Europe last year, and he delivered one of the most eye-catching runs on the entire World Cup card, although it fell just short. In the Dubai Duty Free, Noverre finished like an absolute rocket to be just a stride or two late. And he did it at 1 1/8 miles, a new distance for him.

What about the colt who won the 2000 Juvenile? That was Macho Uno, who made a very encouraging 4-year-old debut Saturday at Gulfstream Park. It was only an allowance race, but he beat a razor-sharp opponent with a bold, late rush in his first outing since his good fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. As comebacks go, this was considerably better than the one Macho Uno made last summer at Saratoga and it positions him to be an important addition to this year's handicap division.

Street Cry is also bound for New York for major stakes racing. And both Burning Roma and Dollar Bill, who were fourth and 10th in the 2000 Juvenile, are harboring realistic hopes for successful seasons. The 2000 Juvenile may turn out to be a race that just keeps on giving.

Important prep for Essence of Dubai

A few words about Essence of Dubai, who went from last to first to win the UAE Derby Saturday at the race's new distance of 1 1/4 miles. It's reasonable to assume that UAE Derby runner-up Total Impact on Saturday ran at least as well as he did when he got a 102 Beyer Speed Figure at Santa Anita last month, so you might project a 103 Beyer for Essence of Dubai last Saturday. That may not sound like much, but this year, it puts him in the Kentucky Derby ballpark.

A rough equivalent of a 103 Beyer would be a Timeform rating of 117. For the record, Essence of Dubai got a rating of 115.

Essence of Dubai won at the Kentucky Derby distance. This is an important point, but it is not a first in modern-day Derby history. Canonero II had two races at 1 1/4 miles in Venezuela, one a win, before he won the 1971 Kentucky Derby as a member of the mutuel field. Since Canonero II, there were five horses who ran in the Derby after having at least one race at a distance of at least 1 1/4 miles, and the best finish out of that group was a seventh by Paulrus in 1991. But Essence of Dubai has accomplished much more going into the Derby than any member of this group, including Canonero II.