02/04/2003 12:00AM

Not cut out for the classics

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LAS VEGAS - Kafwain was an impressive winner of the San Vicente Stakes last weekend, but being impressive at seven furlongs is not the same as being a serious contender at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.

Kafwain is on the long list of talented 3-year-olds who may win their share of stakes races up to 1 1/8 miles, but who will be far less effective beyond that distance. Kafwain is by Cherokee Run, a gifted sprinter-miler who stretched out to finish second behind Prairie Bayou in the 1993 Preakness Stakes.

At 4, Cherokee Run was kept in races at one mile or under and shined as a result. After placing in several stakes, including the Metropolitan, A Phenomenon, and Carter, he won the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and Breeders' Cup Sprint and was named champion sprinter. An immediate hit at stud, he led freshman sires of 1999 by earnings and winners.

With four crops to race, he is a superior speed influence. His best runners have been Chilukki, Yonaguska, and Dream Run.

Kafwain gets some stamina from his dam's sire, Moment of Hope (Timeless Moment), who was a multiple stakes winner at middle distances. Kafwain figures to be serious threat for the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap at one mile.

Other 3-year-olds who should be dismissed as serious Derby candidates are:

Bham (Boston Harbor) The male influences in the pedigree are the primary clues whether a horse will be more effective in sprints or at a route. With just one glance at Bham's pedigree, it is clear that he will not be comfortable beyond nine furlongs, if he even gets that far. Sired by Boston Harbor, juvenile champion in 1996 (by champion 2-year-old and speed influence Capote), and out of a mare by speed influence Gone West, Bham should be kept to distances under 1 1/16 miles.

Boston Bull (Boston Harbor) Also sired by Boston Harbor, Boston Bull gets stamina from his dam's sire, Pleasant Colony, but that may not be enough for him to be dangerous at 1 1/4 miles. Boston Bull gets class from his dam, Delicacy, who produced middle distance stakes winners Majestic Dy (Dynaformer) and Skip a Grade (Honor Grades), who were both by stamina influences. But with Boston Harbor as his sire, Boston Bull will be best at distances up to one mile.

Bull Market (Holy Bull) While he surprised nearly everyone winning at 1 1/4 miles, Holy Bull was an aberration for his sire (Great Above), and the majority of his offspring prefer distances up to 1 1/8 miles, at best. Having Capote as his dam's sire only accentuates his predilection for speed rather than stamina.

Champali (Glitterman) Champali was a multiple stakes winner at 2, but like other sons of speed influence Glitterman (Dewan), he will find 1 1/4 miles well beyond his capability. Glitterman has had a highly successful career as a stallion. In 2001, his son Balto Star was tabbed as a Derby threat off brilliant victories in the Turfway Spiral Stakes and Arkansas Derby, both at 1 1/8 miles. Balto Star found the Derby distance too far as a 3-year-old, and only was able to stretch out to longer distances as an older horse, when he finished second in the Man o' War Stakes on grass.

Colita (Grindstone) A member of Unbridled's first crop, Grindstone won the Kentucky Derby in 1996 but has been predominantly a speed influence as a sire. Few remember that Grindstone was a precocious juvenile, winning a five-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park in early June of his 2-year-old year. His offspring inherited his speed but they have yet to be successful at 1 1/4 miles. Colita descends from a good female family, which has produced stakes winners such as Too Many Sweets, I'm Sweets, and Jaggery John. His dam's sire is the versatile Dixieland Band, but his second dam's sire is Full Pocket, who is strictly a source of speed.

Domestic Dispute (Unbridled's Song) Unbridled's Song was also a member of Unbridled's first crop, and like Grindstone, his runners have more speed than stamina. Unbridled's Song's best runners have been Unbridled Elaine, Buddha, Songandaprayer, and Griffinite. While Buddha was injured as a 3-year-old following the Wood Memorial, both Songandaprayer and Griffinite had distance limitations. Domestic Dispute won the Santa Catalina Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, but it came against a modest group.

Echeverria (Awesome Again) Although he is by 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, who is very capable of siring a Derby winner, Echeverria's pedigree is top-heavy with speed influences. His dam's sire is Piccolino and his second dam is by Medieval Man, another strict source of speed.

Elusive City (Elusive Quality) Although I am enamored by Elusive Quality as a stallion, his runners will have severe distance limitations, especially on the dirt. They are superior sprinter-milers who may stretch out on occasion but likely will find 1 1/4 miles beyond their scope. Elusive City, a top European juvenile, is also out of a mare by top sprinter Dayjur.

Omega Code (Elusive Quality) Also sired by Elusive Quality, Omega Code has strong stamina influences on his female side and he may eventually stretch out to middle distances, but most likely as a mature older horse. His dam, Tin Oaks, is by Deputy Minister and is out of the multiple stakes winner Squan Song (by the noted stamina influence Exceller). Omega Code's fourth dam is a full sister to champions Bold Lad and Successor, and his fifth dam is Misty Morn, a champion in 1955 and the dam of five stakes winners.