07/30/2007 11:00PM

Making sense of Spa babies


LAS VEGAS - Analyzing the 2-year-old races at Saratoga can be daunting because the full fields are usually loaded with not one or two outstanding pedigrees, but usually about a half-dozen that are capable of winning these races.

As an example, below is Thursday's second race at Saratoga (in post position order), a five-furlong open maiden race for 2-year-old fillies, and how I use pedigree handicapping (and trainer handicapping) to dissect the race to come up with the most likely contenders:

Spanish Coin (Johannesburg-Spanish Harbor, by Corporate Report): Second by a neck in her career debut on July 1 at Churchill while showing high speed, she is an obvious player in her second start. By last year's worldwide leading freshman sire, Johannesburg, she is a half-sister to Reloy Handicap winner Desiraes My Candy. Johannesburg's offspring are superior on grass, but his first crop last year included such win-early 2-year-olds as Scat Daddy and Teuflesberg. With close to two dozen juvenile winners thus far this year, Steve Asmussen is renowned for having his babies ready to win from the start.

Sunday Elegance (Sunday Break-Time Place, by Unbridled's Song): Like Asmussen, Todd Pletcher is also well-known for having his 2-year-olds ready to win their first starts. This colt is coupled with another Pletcher entrant, the filly Constance. Sunday Elegance is from the first crop of Sunday Break, a son of Forty Niner who won the Peter Pan Stakes and also ran third in the Belmont and Wood Memorial stakes. Key to this pedigree are the first three damsires - Unbridled's Song, Time for a Change, and Mr. Prospector. They are all speed influences.

Tazarine (Cat Thief-Doppio Espresso, by Java Gold): Most of Storm Cat's sons are characterized by speed, but Cat Thief was atypical. He was a late-blooming juvenile, winning the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity and finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he improved with age and distance, winning the BC Classic. His runners are better on turf, but they do win on dirt, and Tazarine's dam won the Astoria Stakes early at 2. The keys here are her dam's precocious speed and the speed she shows in her a.m. drills.

Syriana's Song (Indian Charlie-K.O. Kitty, by Tale of the Cat): This is an SP2 pedigree (speed from sire and damsire), bred to win early at 2. Indian Charlie, like his sire, In Excess, is a speed influence, and this is intensified by the presence of another speed influence, Tale of the Cat. Second dam is a half-sister to K.oO. Punch, who won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Haggin Stakes, and also finished second in the Hopeful and Futurity stakes and was third in the Saratoga Special.

Backseat Rhythm (El Corredor-Kiss a Miss, by Kissin Kris): El Corredor, a son of Mr. Greeley (Gone West) and a half-brother to the speedy Roman Ruler, got off to a fast start as a stallion, siring Frizette, Spinaway, and Astoria stakes winner Adieu as well as El Viento, a champion juvenile in Puerto Rico, in his first crop. Backseat Rhythm's dam was stakes-placed, and damsire Kissin Kris adds stamina, not speed, to a pedigree.

Malka (Deputy Minister-Get Lucky, by Mr. Prospector): Wins the pedigree prize in this field. By the late Deputy Minister, a champion at 2 as well as a leading sire, Malka is out of stakes winner Get Lucky, a full sister to 2-year-old champion and Travers winner Rhythm, and to Not for Love, a leading Maryland-based stallion. Malka is a half-sister to stakes winners Accelerator and Daydreaming, and also to the unraced She's a Winner, the dam of Bluegrass Cat. Allen Jerkens's best-bred juvenile, and one who is bred to win at 2.

Irish Smoke (Smoke Glacken-Added Time, by Gilded Time): This is a 2-year-old pedigree. Smoke Glacken was an outstanding juvenile, winning the Hopeful, Sapling, and Tyro stakes at 2, and he was a champion sprinter at 3. As expected, his runners have high speed and usually make good 2-year-olds as well. In addition, damsire Gilded Time was an undefeated 2-year-old champion, and this filly's female family has been very productive in recent years. Added Time is a half-sister to Added Asset and Added Gold, and this filly shows some sizzling works over Keeneland's Polytrack. Patrick Biancone has a barnful of babies ready to win at Saratoga.

Constance (Vindication-Absolute Magic, by Unbridled): Coupled with Sunday Elegance, but note that the stable's main rider, John Velazquez, takes this filly. Freshman sire Vindication, an undefeated 2-year-old champion, is off to a fast start at stud. His first crop includes impressive juvenile winners More Happy, Sargent Seattle, and Miss Van Gogh, stakes-placed Galiano, and Chita Girl, Loving Vindication, and Sentabele. Dam is by Unbridled and out of multiple stakes winner Chaposa Springs, a half-sister to You and I.

Selections: Malka, Constance, Spanish Coin, Irish Smoke.