02/01/2007 1:00AM

Names to remember as the stakes get higher

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Although blockbuster weekends with big-name horses remain months away in New York, a mid-meet review of the charts shows some talented and promising Thoroughbreds have run this winter.

Nov. 17-19: Though not technically part of the winter meet, this impromptu three-day preview of racing on the inner track came about when complications arose with the main track. It seems the main track doesn't do well anymore when it rains - an unfortunate state of affairs for a surface utilized through the wettest parts of the year. The switch was just fine for Accountforthegold, who wired the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap.

Nov. 29: Official opening day. Liquor Cabinet returned for his first start since April 1, and edged entrymate Mr. Whitestone in a time just .60 off the track record.

Dec. 1: The tight-turned inner track is inherently hospitable to inside speed, and on Day 3 the first noticeable front-runner's bias emerged. Made a note to bet against horses that went wire to wire with the grain of the track, such as Lacy Halo and Golden Dreamer. Naturally, both won right back, with Golden Dreamer taking the Ruthless Stakes.

Dec. 7: Rated from 1-10 with 10 being strongest, this day produced a Category 11 speed bias, a veritable conveyor belt from gate to finish line for seven front-running winners. Figured to make a bundle on some against-the-bias playbacks, but to date only Cavallo Pazzo has won - at a big fat 8-5.

Dec. 9: Down a couple notches on the "biasometer," but there were still six winners who were first or second at the first call. Among them was Magna Graduate, a winner of three graded stakes and more than $1 million as a 3-year-old, who toyed with five rivals in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap.

Dec. 10: The field for the Damon Runyon Stakes was strung out 30 lengths at the finish, and winning off all by his lonesome was Lawrence the Roman, who received a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. A New York-bred colt by Point Given, he is not to be taken lightly when he makes his

3-year-old debut in next Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes.

Jan. 5: Belmont Stakes winner Jazil returned, but the deep closer's rally from the back of the pack was too little, too late, as Take the Bluff raced on a clear lead throughout.

Jan. 6: Smarty Jones spring-boarded to fame after winning the Count Fleet Stakes in 2004, but it's unlikely any runners of that caliber ran in this renewal. Pink Viper made good use of his inside post to pull off an upset as fifth choice in a field of six, and received a Beyer of 80 - 17 points slower than what Smarty Jones received in '04.

Jan. 7: Chances are, Thunder Sword and Freedom Ridge will never be household names. But whoever used the improbable winners to catch the $66,811 late pick four will remember them forever, after they won the first two legs at $111 and $106, respectively.

Jan. 12: If Lawrence the Roman is reason No. 1 the winner of the Whirlaway won't come out of the Count Fleet, Summer Doldrums is reason No. 1A. Scratched from the Count Fleet, he returned six days later to win a first-level allowance at the same distance of a mile and 70 yards.

The six-furlong and final-time fractions for the Count Fleet were 1:11.95 and 1:42.94; the corresponding times for Summer Doldrums were 1:11.89 and 1:41.39.

Jan. 20: Off this performance to win the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap by nine lengths with a 112 Beyer, Liquor Cabinet became the fastest horse in the nation, at least through the first month of 2007. Next stop for the lightly raced 6-year-old is the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 10.

Jan. 25: Tony Dutrow has a couple of very nice 3-year-old sprinters in Bill Place and Serious Fever. Bill Place dueled Wollaston Bay into defeat to win the Jimmy Winkfield through scorching fractions on Jan. 15. Serious Fever got a Beyer of 90 for winning a first-level allowance 10 days later, but the half-brother to Freefourinternet (a Grade 2 winner on turf and dirt) was under wraps and left the impression he can do even more.