09/02/2003 11:00PM

A look at best Beyers from Saratoga


BOSTON - Looking back over six weeks plagued by rain and dominated by Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez, here are the top dozen Beyer Speed Figure performances for Saratoga 2003:

12. Zavata went wire to wire with a 112 Beyer Figure in the Amsterdam sprint for 3-year-olds, romping by 5 1/4. No handicapper I know liked his chances that day, and we found out why when he was forced to chase wide in his next start and faltered badly. He is talented, but fragile and a bit short of courage.

11. Everyday Angel won her maiden by 12 1/2 lengths, earning a Beyer Figure of 90 in the mud on Aug. 11. Later that day Whoopi Cat won the Adirondack with only a 91.

10. In the "very-ready-after-a-long-layoff" category, the award is shared by three horses. The 3-year-old claiming filly Elegant Mercedes ran a 96 at seven furlongs. Key Deputy won his maiden by nine lengths after a 14-month layoff with a 103 Beyer. Pretty Wild, out since October 2002, won a one-other-than allowance with a 95. Layoffs are not nearly so negative at the Spa. Owners and trainers are more willing to wait if they can grab the very special prestige and glory of winning at Saratoga.

9. On July 24, Wild Berry, a 2-year-old New-York-bred filly won her maiden with an 81. The next day 2-year-old colts and geldings won split divisions of maiden special weights races with figures of only 58 and 70. Later that same day, an open 2-year-old filly maiden race earned a Beyer of only 67.

8. In the "far-above-par" category, two horses stand out. Source won by 3 3/4 lengths at 6 1/2 furlongs with a Beyer of 106, 11 points above par for his class. Clock Stopper earned a figure of 106 - eight points above par for two-other-than allowance runners.

7. Trademark swept the older males turf stakes, earning powerful back-to-back Beyers of 110 and 109.

6. Lady Tak lived up to all expectations in the Test, crushing her rival 3-year-old filly sprinters with a 110 figure on July 26.

5. Private Horde easily captured the "most surprising Beyer" award. He ran off to a five-length, longshot win in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt on Aug. 10. His speed figure of 117 was a huge leap up from his previous out-of-town efforts. Shake You Down collapsed after dueling for the lead on a muddy rail. Perhaps his Scott-Lake-inspired, miracle-Beyer run is finally over.

4. Sightseek sizzled with a 115 Beyer in the early part of the meeting, when her trainer, Bobby Frankel, was red-hot. Frankel would subsequently and inexplicably tail off with a winless streak of 18 races - with many of his heavily bet horses finishing well up the track.

3. The Godolphin-owned Qais was sensational in a nine-length victory on Aug. 30, jumping up to a Beyer of 113. The second-place finisher, Traditional, had run figures of 95, 58, and 79 leading up to this race. He was 24-1 in a six-horse field and could very well "cycle" back up to a figure in the 95 range. He struggled along, but managed to survive a long stretch duel and captured second by a head. (His figure improved to 93.) The exacta paid $51.50, proving that you can make something good out of an obvious Jerry Bailey 4-5 shot.

2. If you were wondering whether Bobby Frankel was in a permanent eclipse, Aldebaran answered that question most emphatically. He ran away by 4 3/4 lengths in the Forego, breaking the 120-Beyer barrier with a 122. He joins Candy Ride as the only other runner to reach that elite level so far in 2003. Najran equaled his lifetime-best 111 Beyer in the Forego but couldn't withstand the winner. Gygistar improved from a 106 in his allowance prep to 109, but was never a threat.

1. The 2-year-old colt Birdstone was easily the most-talked-about horse of the meeting. His maiden win on Aug. 2 was as impressive a debut as any in recent memory. He rated nicely, accelerated at will around the leaders, and romped home under wraps to earn a huge Beyer Figure of 99. But four weeks later he flopped in the Hopeful, putting in a lifeless effort, with his Beyer dropping sharply to only a 78 behind Silver Wagon's mediocre winning figure of 92. Nick Zito might be wondering whether his highly publicized new strategy of getting horses ready first time out is such a good idea.

We shall see.