01/29/2002 12:00AM

Mutamam and Irish Prize share top weight

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mutamam, winner of Woodbine's Grade 1 Canadian International, and Irish Prize, a close fourth in the Grade 1 Atto Mile, both are pegged at 126 pounds in the turf male category to rank as the overall topweights on the 2001 Canadian Free Handicap.

"Mutamam and Irish Prize were the two best horses that ran in Canada in 2001," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's racing secretary and director of racing. "One was best at a mile, and one was best at a mile and a half. You can't make a case that one horse is better than the other."

The weights for the Canadian Free Handicap, a hypothetical exercise conducted by racing secretaries across Canada, were released Tuesday by the Jockey Club of Canada.

To be eligible for inclusion, a horse must have finished first, second, or third in a stakes race or have started in a Grade 1 in Canada last year. Horses rated at less than 105 pounds are not weighted.

Distance is not considered in the 2-year-old ratings, which include turf performances. The sprint categories cover 3-year-olds and upward, dirt or turf, at six furlongs, and the distance for the turf male and turf female categories is defined as 1 1/4 miles. The other divisions are rated at 1 1/8 miles.

"We're looking at the overall performance of all the horses," said Evans. "We lean most towards what they did in Canada, but we don't throw out what happened before or since."

While the reasoning behind Mutamam's ranking is relatively clear in view of his International score, Irish Prize's ranking may not be evident.

Despite his one-length defeat in the Atto Mile, Irish Prize is weighted six pounds above winner Numerous Times, five above runnerup Affirmed Success, and two above third-place Quiet Resolve.

"I'm looking at the weights they carried," said Evans, noting that Irish Prize had been saddled with high weight of 124 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Atto Mile, while Numerous Times was in with 117, Affirmed Success with 119, and Quiet Resolve with 121.

Mutamam and Irish Prize were not eligible for Sovereign Awards, for which three starts in Canada during a current season are a prerequisite. Numerous Times won the Sovereign in the turf male division.

The panel also was unable to establish a clear topweight in four other categories. Rare Friends and Changeintheweather both were pegged at 123 pounds on the 2-year-old male list; Win City and Fancy As were assigned 123 to head the 3-year-old males; A Fleets Dancer and Graeme Hall were rated at 125 pounds in the older male division; and Choc Ice and Spring Oak topped the turf females at 122 pounds.

Win City, a six-time stakes winner in Ontario who was voted Canada's Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male, was renewing a long-distance rivalry with Fancy As, who ended the runner-up in his Sovereign Award division.

"For me, they were a toss-up," said Evans. "I was leaning slightly toward Fancy As until Win City beat older horses in the Autumn. I have no problem co-highweighting them."

Fancy As, bred in Manitoba and based in Alberta, won seven stakes in western Canada.

"I think this is one of the very best horses to ever come out of Alberta," said Alan Bott, racing secretary at Edmonton's Northlands Park. "He's the real deal."

Rare Friends and A Fleets Dancer also won the Sovereign Awards for their divisions. Choc Ice and Spring Oak finished first and third, respectively, in Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Stakes in their lone Canadian appearances.

Other Sovereign Award winners who headed their Canadian Free Handicap categories were 2-year-old filly Ginger Gold, 3-year-old filly Dancethruthedawn, and older female Mountain Angel.