01/17/2003 12:00AM

Looking back at the best of 2002

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Some are surprises, others entirely predictable. Here is a look back at Maryland's top performers of 2002:

Leading breeders: Sondra and Howard Bender

The state's top breeders of 2001 had an even better year in 2002. Trainer Larry Murray sent out seven Bender runners to win 13 stakes during the year, topped by five wins by La Reine's Terms. The Benders, residents of Bethesda, Md., were the breeders of a state-leading nine stakes winners, including seven who competed in their colors - Boca Flyer, Buenos Dias, Certantee, Cruise Along, Foufa's Warrior, La Reine's Terms, and Secret River - along with Full Brush and He's a Knockout. Horses bred by the Benders earned more than $1.8 million in 2002.

Leading Maryland-bred money winner: Magic Weisner

Three-year-old overachiever Magic Weisner amassed $791,000, far ahead of the next runner on the list, Grade 1 winner Shine Again, who accounted for $425,500. Owner/breeder/-

trainer Nancy Alberts sent out Magic Weisner, Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old colt of 2001, to win four stakes, including the Grade 2 Ohio Derby. But Magic Weisner, a determined son of Ameri Valay, made his biggest headlines when he nearly caught War Emblem in the final strides of the Preakness Stakes. In what would be his final race of the season, Magic Weisner gave another good performance against War Emblem when finishing second in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth.

Magic Weisner came down with West Nile virus while preparing for the Pennsylvania Derby in September. Following months of hospital care and recuperation, he is preparing for a return in 2003.

Leading Maryland sires: Allen's Prospect and Not for Love

Allen's Prospect, Country Life Farm's 21-year-old stallion, continues to churn out the runners. Allen's Prospect topped Maryland's general sires list for the fourth year in a row and ranked as the nation's leader by number of winners (by North American-based sires) for the fifth consecutive year. With 129 winners from 205 starters, Allen's Prospect had total progeny earnings of $4,775,080, with his multiple stakes-winning daughter Your Out topping all his earners with $269,850.

Not for Love, second to Allen's Prospect on the general sires list, had progeny earnings top $4 million for the first time in his career and earned the distinction of being one of nine stallions in the country to be represented by more than 10 stakes winners. Of his 11 stakes winners, three were 2-year-olds, which propelled Not for Love, who stands at Northview Stallion Station, to the top of the juvenile sires lists. Not for Love's 2-year-olds earned $666,932.

Leading Maryland-bred by number of stakes wins: La Reine's Terms

La Reine's Terms, a homebred for the Benders, won five stakes in six starts last year at age 7, each at a different track. He made his 2002 debut on June 29, and emerged with a victory in the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs. He added to his 2002 streak with victories in the Find Handicap (Laurel Park), Labor Day Handicap (Mountaineer Park), and Maryland Million Turf Stakes (Pimlico).

After an uncharacteristic off-the-board performance at Hawthorne Park, La Reine's Terms rebounded to win the NTRA Great State Challenge Turf Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7, his final start of the year.

Graded stakes winners

Shine Again made 10 starts last year at age 5, with her most impressive a repeat victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga when she defeated Raging Fever and Mandy's Gold. Shine Again, who races for her breeder, Allaire duPont, also captured the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap at Aqueduct in October. A daughter of Wild Again out of the Two Punch mare Shiner, Shine Again placed in five stakes last season, including a third to Mandy's Gold and You in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap.

Shiny Band (by Dixieland Band), a younger half-sister to stablemate to Shine Again, won the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont Park in May.

Other Maryland-bred graded stakes winners were Duckhorn (Ben Ali, Keeneland), Secret River (All Along Breeders' Cup, Colonial Downs), Sheila's Prospect (Bessarabian Handicap, Woodbine), and steeplechase winner Pinkie Swear (Atlanta Cup Hurdle).