01/06/2006 12:00AM

No clear choice for 2005's top 2-year-old

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Maryland-bred 2-year-olds had a tough act to follow in 2005, trying to fill the shoes of Eclipse Award winner Declan's Moon. While that lofty perch wasn't reached, there is no denying that last year's crop was a diverse and ambitious group.

Ten Maryland-bred 2-year-olds were stakes winners in 2005. Voters selecting the state-bred champions will have many things to consider when contemplating the leaders of the 2-year-old divisions.

The top two 2-year-old earners of 2005 were both colts - Creve Coeur and El Viento. Creve Coeur, a son of Lion Hearted owned by Eugene Ford and bred by Dr. and Mrs. Tom Bowman, was awarded victory, after finishing second, in the Maryland Million Nursery Stakes in October at Laurel Park, his only stakes win of the year. Nevertheless, the durable colt, who was sent out by trainer Graham Motion eight times in 2005, was second in the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes and third in the Tyro and H. Steward Mitchell stakes. He topped the earners list with $150,185.

El Viento was bred in Maryland, but did all his running in Puerto Rico, winning four races and earning $135,500. His credentials include wins in three Grade 1 races - the Clasico Jose Coll Vidal, Clasico Fanatico Hipico, and Clasico Agustin Mercado Reveron - ranging in distances from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. El Viento, an El Corredor colt, was sold by his breeders, Charles and Cynthia McGinnes's Thornmar farm, as a yearling for $150,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall yearling sale, the same sale where Creve Coeur was purchased for $85,000.

The winner of the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes always gets consideration in final championship tallies, and this year that runner is Vegas Play. Bred by Nancy M. Leonard Living Trust, Vegas Play (by Exploit) is out of Nancy Leonard's graded stakes winning mare Power Play. The colt, sold as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale for $40,000, races for Harry C. and Tom O. Meyerhoff, of Spectacular Bid fame. Vegas Play's late rally propelled him past Creve Coeur to a half-length victory in the one-mile Juvenile Championship, held on Dec. 31 at Laurel.

The fourth colt to win a stakes in 2005 was Sound Moon, who also appeared in the Juvenile Championship, finishing sixth. Earlier in the fall, Sound Moon captured the Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town.

In the fillies division, the leading earner was Smart and Fancy, who took the Maryland Million Lassie Stakes and went 3 for 5 last year, amassing $108,080. Also bred by Dr. and Mrs. Bowman, Smart and Fancy, by Maryland's top sire of 2005, Not for Love, was given time off by her connections - owner Win and Place Stable and trainer Tony Dutrow - following her victory in a small restricted stakes at Philadelphia Park on Nov. 5.

With Smart and Fancy out of the picture, a number of others stepped up to seek claim to the championship title. Celestial Legend was undefeated in four starts at 2, winning by an average margin of nearly five lengths, and scoring in the Holly and Toddler stakes. A City Zip filly bred by David Wade and Bill Fitzgibbons and campaigned by David Menard and Richard Shultz, Celestial Legend earned $99,360. She could have solidified her chances for year-end championship honors if she had made her scheduled start in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship on Dec. 26 at Laurel, but trainer Dale Capuano elected to scratch after the track came up wet.

Stepping up to take advantage of the absence of Celestial Legend was Somethinaboutbetty. A daughter of Forestry and a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Petunia, Somethinaboutbetty was seeking her second consecutive win and got it, setting every fraction to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Somethinaboutbetty - a $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Calder 2-year-old purchase - boosted her earnings to $91,300 from five starts. She was bred by Glade Valley Farms in Frederick, Md., where she - and Vegas Play - were foaled in April 2003.

Three other fillies also produced dazzling displays last year: Livermore Valley won the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth in August by 4 1/2 lengths before she was sidelined by injury. Livermore Valley returned in December to finish second in the Randaroo Stakes at Aqueduct; Christmas Stocking captured the $100,000 Cherokee Frolic Stakes at Calder on the turf in December; and Cross Creek Rosie was never off the board in six starts, four of them stakes.

May the voting begin.