01/28/2003 12:00AM

Left Bank's legacy that of champion


Left Bank made just four starts last year, but he made quite an impression. His three stakes victories, most notably his front-running score over Street Cry in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, carried him to the Eclipse Award as champion older male for 2002.

Memories, however, are all that remain of Left Bank, who died last fall from colic, only weeks after the Whitney.

Left Bank won a split vote, outpolling Volponi, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, and Street Cry, who won the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap before finishing second in the Whitney.

Left Bank carried the Daily Racing Form bloc, earning 22 first-place votes to nine for Volponi and five for Street Cry. Left Bank also was preferred by the National Turf Writers Association, with 41.5 first-place votes compared to 32 for Volponi and 18.5 for Street Cry. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, however, went for Volponi. He earned 18 first-place votes, more than the 16 for Left Bank and 12 for Street Cry. So, Left Bank carried two of the three blocs, while defeating Volponi in individual votes by 79.5-59.

Left Bank, a stout chestnut son of French Deputy, was bred by John Youngblood and Fletcher Gray. He did not make the first start of his 5-year-old season until May 11, when he captured the six-furlong Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park. He then suffered his lone loss of the year in the Metropolitan Handicap, when he tired after pressing the pace and finished fifth of 10.

Left Bank rebounded from that setback with perhaps the best two performances of his career. First, he romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the seven-furlong Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park on July 4. Then came the Whitney.

Throughout his career, Left Bank had been thought of, and campaigned, as a sprinter or miler. The Aug. 3 Whitney, at 1 1/8 miles and against the likes of Street Cry and Lido Palace, offered a superior challenge. Left Bank was up for it. He attended a hot pace, then bravely fought off Street Cry to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

That was to be his last start. He won 14 times in 24 lifetime starts, and earned $1,402,806. He usually raced with wraps on all four legs.

Todd Pletcher trained Left Bank for owner Michael Tabor. John Velazquez rode Left Bank in all four of his races in his championship season. Neither Pletcher nor Tabor attended Monday's Eclipse Awards dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif. Dermot Ryan, representing the Coolmore Stud of John Magnier, a frequent business partner of Tabor, accepted Left Bank's trophy.