05/21/2002 12:00AM

Look for fast start from Elusive Quality

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LAS VEGAS - With summer fast approaching, 2-year-old races will be filling cards across the country. The focus of these baby races will be the 2002 freshman sires, and among these first-crop sires is Elusive Quality, who is expected to have an immediate impact.

While Elusive Quality was unraced at 2 and did not become a stakes winner until age 5, he showed high speed throughout his career, and his offspring should be precocious 2-year-olds. In fact, Elusive Quality, along with Swiss Yodeler and Souvenir Copy, are the early leaders among freshman sires. It's only May, but Elusive Quality already has two juvenile winners, Adopted Daughter and Mr. Elusive, and another colt, Shadow Chief, finished third in his debut.

Elusive Quality has the kind of pedigree and racing performance to be a good sire of 2-year-olds. Elusive Quality's tail-male sire line (Gone West-Mr. Prospector-Raise a Native-Native Dancer) is renowned for its quality speed, and Elusive Quality had it as well.

Gone West won the Dwyer, Gotham and Withers stakes, and like many quality milers has become a sensational stallion. His classy runners include champions Zafonic and Royal Abjar, and stakes winners Commendable, West by West, Lassigny, Grand Slam, Came Home, Mr. Greeley, and most recently, Proud Citizen.

Mr. Prospector's status as one of the sport's all-time great stallions is legendary, and he displayed uncommon speed as a racehorse. From the 1970 foal crop that included Secretariat and Forego, Mr. Prospector was unsound, but he lit up Teletimers when he ran at 3 and 4. He set a track record at Gulfstream Park of 1:07.80 for six furlongs, and also established a track record in the Whirlaway Handicap at the old Garden State Park, running six furlongs in 1:08.60.

Raise a Native, from the outstanding 1961 foal crop that included Northern Dancer, Quadrangle, Roman Brother, and Hill Rise, was undefeated in four starts at 2. He set a five-furlong track record of 57.80 seconds at Aqueduct in only his third start, and in what was to be his final race, the Great American Stakes, he set an Aqueduct track record of 1:02.60 for 5 1/2 furlongs. A training accident before he was to start in the Sapling Stakes ended his career, and although he had established track records, Raise a Native had never really been asked to run. With runners like Majestic Prince, Alydar, and Exclusive Native, his career as a stallion eclipsed his short but brilliant racing career.

If any horse was meant to win the Triple Crown, it was Native Dancer. He won 21 of 22 starts, with his only loss a head defeat to Dark Star in the most important race of his life, the Kentucky Derby. Native Dancer had a remarkable year at 3, winning the Wood Memorial, Withers, Preakness, Belmont, Dwyer, and Travers, as well as the Arlington Classic and American Derby. Native Dancer had great speed, winning all nine races at 2, and captured the Metropolitan Handicap under 130 pounds and Oneonta Handicap under 137 pounds at 4. His influence on the breed is as important as any Thoroughbred in history. In addition to being the sire of Raise a Native, he is also the sire of Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer.

Class in the dam

Elusive Quality's dam, Touch of Greatness (by Hero's Honor), is an example of an outstanding broodmares who were unraced. In addition to Elusive Quality, Touch of Greatness also produced Rossini (by Miswaki), winner of the Group 2 Anglesey Stakes and Group 2 Prix Robert Papin.

Elusive Quality's second dam, Ivory Wand (Sir Ivor), won the 1976 Test Stakes and is a prime example of class in the dam. Not only did she produce stakes winners, but her daughters, even unraced daughters, became stakes producers. Bred to a variety of high-class stallions, she produced nothing but quality individuals.

Ivory Wand produced Gold and Ivory (Key to the Mint), a champion in Italy and Germany, as well as stakes-placed Leap of the Heart (Nijinsky II) and Land of Ivory (The Minstrel), the dam of Group 1 winner Heart of Darkness. Ivory Wand also produced Radiant (Foolish Pleasure), dam of stakes winners Home of the Free, Poolesta, and Desert Fox. Another daughter, unraced Ivory Idol (Alydar), is the dam of champion 2-year-old Anees.

Elusive Quality's third dam, Natashka, was from the foal crop of 1963, which included the outstanding fillies Moccasin, Priceless Gem, Lady Pitt, Destro, Native Street, Prides Profile, Swinging Mood, and Marking Time (the dam of Relaxing and granddam of Easy Goer). Natashka won the Monmouth Oaks and was placed first in the Alabama Stakes upon the disqualification of Lady Pitt.

Of that crop, Moccasin was undefeated champion at 2 and co-Horse of the Year, and Lady Pitt was champion at 3. While not a champion on the track, Natashka was a superstar in the breeding shed. She was 1981 Broodmare of the Year and the dam of five major stakes winners. In addition to Ivory Wand, her other stakes winners were Gregorian, Truly Bound, Arkadina, and Blood Royal. Another daughter, Tash, produced champion Mukaddamah (sire of the recent Woodlawn Stakes winner, Mr. O'Brien).

Elusive Quality has plenty of firepower, with 77 2-year-olds and 79 yearlings. Expect his runners to have speed on all surfaces, and be equally proficient on dirt, turf, and wet tracks.