02/27/2007 12:00AM

Nobiz Like Shobiz bred for the classics

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LAS VEGAS - On Saturday, the 3-year-old season begins in earnest. For many decades now, the Fountain of Youth has become a major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby, and it has particular significance this year because of the presence of Nobiz Like Shobiz, one of the stars of this year's 3-year-old crop.

Nobiz Like Shobiz won the Holy Bull Stakes in his 3-year-old debut as expected, and while it was not as visually impressive as his races last year at 2, it served as a prep for bigger races, including the Fountain of Youth. Because last year's 2-year-old champion, Street Sense, has not raced since his smashing victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November, and is just now showing up regularly in morning workouts, Nobiz Like Shobiz moved to the head of the class - for now.

While Nobiz Like Shobiz was workmanlike in his Holy Bull score, expect to see some fireworks in the Fountain of Youth, where he towers over his rivals.

A closer look at the Fountain of Youth contenders and their pedigrees for the Kentucky Derby:

Nobiz Like Shobiz: He can be placed anywhere in a race, though his tactical speed likely will have him close to the pace. Bred to enjoy classic distances, he has a pedigree that offers more than meets the eye. His sire, multiple Grade 1 winner Albert the Great, did not get off to a fast start at stud, and Nobiz Like Shobiz, from his sire's second crop, has single-handedly jump-started his sire's stud career.

It may be no mistake that Albert the Great's best runner to date happens to be the latest example of the powerful female family inbreeding phenomenon known as the RF, or Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals).

Nobiz Like Shobiz is inbred 5x4 to the stakes winner Swoon's Tune, through her daughters Song Sparrow (Tudor Minstrel) and Lilt (Herbager). The RF is found in only a small percentage of Thoroughbreds, but has resulted in an inordinate amount of success, and is more often than not an indicator of high class.

In addition, Nobiz Like Shobiz's dam, Nightstorm (Storm Cat), is herself an RF, inbred 5x5 to the very influential matron Almahmoud, through her highly successful daughters Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer) and Cosmah (whose notable offspring include Halo and champion Tosmah).

The duplication of Swoon's Tune and Almahmoud has resulted in a superior racehorse.

Stormello: Winner of the Hollywood Futurity and Norfolk Stakes, Stormello will add much interest in this year's Fountain of Youth. He was scheduled to be flown from his home base in California to Florida on Wednesday.

He is by the well-bred Stormy Atlantic, a son of Storm Cat from the female family of co-Horse of the Year and champion 2-year-old filly Moccasin. As his pedigree suggests, Stormy Atlantic is a superior sire of turf runners, but he also gets a fair share of winners on dirt. But Stormello has a pedigree that features more speed than stamina. His damsire is speed influence Carson City, and his third damsire is the California stallion Lucky Mike.

The only stamina influence, Lyphard, is found in his third generation. While Stormello should continue winning at middle distances on dirt, it is more likely that he could go longer on turf.

Adore the Gold: Winner of the Swale Stakes, Adore the Gold is also bred to be best as a miler, and 1 1/8 miles might be his limit. He is by Formal Gold, who wowed racing fans as a 4-year-old with his speed, reeling off victories in the 1997 Woodward Stakes, Donn, Philip H. Iselin, and Brooklyn handicaps. Stallions known for speed - Exclusive Era, King Emperor, and Olympia - dominate his pedigree, and only his damsire, Dixieland Band, adds a measure of stamina.

Drums of Thunder: Second to Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Holy Bull, and finishing ahead of Champagne Stakes winner Scat Daddy, Drums of Thunder will get much attention. But aside from Nobiz Like Shobiz and Scat Daddy, the Holy Bull field lacked quality, and Drums of Thunder may have caught Scat Daddy on a day when that colt was short for his 3-year-old debut. Drums of Thunder is by multiple Stakes winner Concerto, the sire of Bellamy Road, and is out of a mare by Future Storm.

His inbreeding to Northern Dancer - both his sire and dam are from the Northern Dancer sire line - suggests he will make his mark on turf, and, in fact, he won his only grass start.

Johannesburg Star: He is from the highly successful first crop of 2-year-old champion Johannesburg, which includes Scat Daddy, Teuflesberg, Baroness Thatcher, Marcavelly, Fernando Po, and Miss Goodnight. Johannesburg Star gets some stamina from his damsire, John Alden, but like the majority of runners by Johannesburg, he should be best on turf.

Meritocracy: By Grand Slam, Meritocracy is closely related to stakes winner Strong Hope and will probably be best as a miler. Strong Hope is also by Grand Slam and is out of Shining Through, a full sister to the second dam of Meritocracy. Meritocracy gets stamina from his damsire Kingmambo, and he also is an RF, inbred to the influential broodmare Sex Appeal through her offspring El Gran Senor and Solar. Sex Appeal is also the dam of Try My Best and Compliance. Meritocracy is a colt with plenty of upside on dirt and, especially, turf.

Hal's My Hope: Bred along the same lines as multiple stakes winner Hal's Hope, Hal's My Hope is by a son of Halo (like Jolie's Halo, the sire of Hal's Hope) and is out of a half-sister to Hal's Hope by speed influence Northern Prospect. While he may get 1 1/4 miles (his sire produced Santa Anita Handicap winner Southern Image), it is more likely to happen at age 4.

Delightful Kiss: By Kissin Kris and out of a mare by French Deputy, Delightful Kiss is bred to relish classic distances. His third dam is a half-sister to stakes winners Handsome Boy, who defeated Buckpasser in the 1967 Brooklyn Handicap, and Blessing Angelica.