01/27/2006 1:00AM

Leroidesanimaux turned loss into win

Leroidesanimaux won the Fourstardave at Saratoga in course-record time, one of three stakes victories in his Eclipse-winning season.

Goncalo Torrealba, the Brazilian businessman who races horses in the United States as Stud T N T, uses a simple rule of thumb: If horses show Group 1 ability in Brazil, they soon wind up on a plane headed to the United States.

So it was with Leroidesanimaux, whom Torrealba acquired as a yearling from his breeder, Haras Bage Do Sul. Leroidesanimaux finished third in his Brazilian Group 1 debut in June of 2003. When he started again seven months later, he resided in California with trainer Bobby Frankel. Fourth on Jan. 7, 2004, at Santa Anita in an entry-level allowance race, he would not lose again for 22 months.

And even then, a loss was nearly as good as a win. Leroidesanimaux finished second to Artie Schiller in the Breeders' Cup Mile, but did so under adverse circumstances, racing on a wet turf course while wearing special shoes to protect sore feet. The heart he showed losing the final race of his career helped make Leroidesanimaux champion turf horse of 2005. He won the Eclipse in a tight vote over Artie Schiller, 119-116, even though Artie Schiller carried two of the three Eclipse voting blocs.

won his last five races in 2004 and began 2005 by scoring a fast, decisive victory in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Handicap on March 4 at Santa Anita. A compact, powerful chestnut horse by the Brazilian sire Candy Stripes and out of the mare Dissemble, Leroidesanimaux had emerged as the top turf miler in the country. He paired brilliant early speed with a dazzling stretch kick.

"He might be one of the better grass horses we've seen around here in a while," Frankel said after the Kilroe.

Leroidesanimaux's fans would have to wait until midsummer to see him again. Frankel runs his horses only when they are right - really right - and he sat chilly until Saratoga. Racing after a long layoff, and with Frankel saving something for the fall, Leroidesanimaux won the Fourstardave Handicap on Aug. 27, setting a record for Saratoga's inner turf course by running 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.92.

The best was yet to come. Would Leroidesanimaux's Breeders' Cup Mile prep race come in the Shadwell at Keeneland? Belmont's Kelso? Or would Frankel train him up to the BC Mile? Frankel showed his hand late, announcing publicly about a week before the race that Leroidesanimaux would ship to Woodbine for the Sept. 18 Atto Mile.

What followed was the single most impressive turf performance last year in North America, as Leroidesanimaux stretched his lead to eight lengths at the finish with a dazzling stretch run.

The Breeders' Cup Mile would put an exclamation point on a perfect season. But in his final work for the Mile, with his front feet sore after shedding their frogs, Leroidesanimaux had to be fitted with aluminum pads. Frankel tried to put on regular racing shoes on Breeders' Cup morning, but Leroidesanimaux was lame without the pads, and in order to race at all, he would sacrifice traction on another wet course. It might have made all the difference. Leroidesanimaux took the lead in the Mile at the top of the stretch and held onto it as long as he could. But Artie Schiller pushed past him in the final furlong, and Leroidesanimaux was all out to hold clear the 3-year-old filly Gorella for second.

"He tried," Frankel said the next day. "He was game. But he can run better than that."

He had run better. In fact, Eclipse voters ultimately decided he had run best of all.