10/01/2002 11:00PM

Outer Reef adds Champagne intrigue

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LAS VEGAS - In a weekend filled with important stakes races from coast to coast, 2-year-old colts and fillies will be in the spotlight at Belmont Park (Champagne and Frizette stakes), Keeneland (Breeders' Futurity and Alcibiades stakes), and Santa Anita (Norfolk and Oak Leaf stakes).

If Sky Mesa (by Pulpit), who won the Hopeful Stakes, wins the Breeders' Futurity, he will undoubtedly be favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, followed closely by the impressive Vindication (Seattle Slew).

The Champagne Stakes and Frizette Stakes are at 1 1/16 miles. Both races should be highly entertaining, featuring some highly regarded horseflesh.

Zavata (Phone Trick) was considered one of the best juveniles in the country before his defeat in the Hopeful Stakes, and although he may be better suited to distances under one mile, offspring of Phone Trick are very capable at 1 1/16 miles. Zavata's strong female family produced Dixie Union and Dubai Millennium. His biggest obstacle may be the presence of the very quick Icecoldbeeratreds (In Excess), winner of the Del Mar Futurity. Any colt challenging Icecoldbeeratreds early will have little left in the stretch. Also expected to contest the hot pace is Desert Warrior, a royally bred son of Deputy Minister. Desert Warrior's dam is a full sister to stakes winner Terlingua, the dam of Storm Cat and Royal Academy.

Pretty Wild (Wild Again), who finished second to Sky Mesa in the Hopeful and second to Whywhywhy in the Futurity in his last two starts, will benefit from a contested early pace. Pretty Wild is bred to appreciate longer distances. His sire won the Breeders' Cup Classic and his dam, Pretty Discreet, won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes.

But the most intriguing prospect in the Champagne is Outer Reef. A son of the promising young stallion Pulpit (also the sire of Sky Mesa), he comes from female family that exudes high quality. Out of the stakes-winning Coastal mare Flippers, Outer Reef is a half-brother to a Santa Anita Oaks winner Hail Atlantis (the dam of first-crop sire Stormy Atlantic, who is the sire of this year's Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Atlantic Ocean). But the biggest key to Outer Reef's class is his second dam, Moccasin. A big, amazon-like filly, Moccasin was simply overpowering at 2, winning all eight of her races, and was named champion 2-year-old filly and co-Horse of the Year. Moccasin was a prominent broodmare, producing seven stakes winners. Her full siblings include stakes winners Ridan and Lt. Stevens, and another full sister, the stakes-placed Thong, went on to glory as a broodmare. Her daughter Special produced Nureyev and Fairy Bridge, the dam of Sadler's Wells. It is one of the most revered families in racing.

Others expected for the Champagne are not without credentials. Risky Cat, a son of freshman sire Tale of the Cat, won the Kimberlite Pipe Stakes at Turfway, and is from a Greentree Stud family of Spinaway Stakes winner Register. Toccet is by another freshman sire, Awesome Again, whose runners are winning across the country. Erinsouthernman, is by second-crop sire Eltish, and his second dam is a half-sister to Sultry Sun, the dam of stakes winners Solar Splendor, Sultry Song, and Strategic Mission. Cape Good Hope is by freshman sire Cape Town, and his second dam is Spinaway Stakes winner, Share the Fantasy.

Showdown in the Frizette

Seven fillies are probable for the Frizette Stakes, but all eyes will be on the undefeated Matron Stakes winner Storm Flag Flying (Storm Cat) and the Del Mar Debutante runner-up, Santa Catarina (Unbridled). Storm Flag Flying is from a famous female line bred by Ogden Phipps. Her dam is a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, My Flag, and her second dam is the legendary Personal Ensign.

Although not owned by the Phipps family, Santa Catarina descends from the influential Phipps broodmare Lady Be Good. Santa Catarina's second dam, Perfect Example (the dam of a European champion 2-year-old filly, Culture Vulture) is a granddaughter of Lady Be Good, and is a half-sister to stakes winner French Charmer (the dam of European champion, Zilzal), stakes winner Highest Regard (the dam of Awe Inspiring), and Past Example (the dam of a French champion and good stallion Polish Precedent).

Santa Catarina should get only better with maturity and distance, and is a genuine threat to Storm Flag Flying on Saturday. Santa Catarina should be especially effective at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park.

With most of the attention is focused on Storm Flag Flying and Santa Catarina, Fircroft may offer value. The victim of a horrendous trip in the Matron, Fircroft is capable of much better and is also bred to get better with age and distance. By A.P. Indy, Fircroft is out of a half-sister to stakes winner and rising young sire Storm Creek.

Fortuitous, by Dynaformer out of an Alysheba mare, is strongly bred for stamina and turf. But many runners by Dynaformer have been successful on dirt. Fortuitous is a must-use in all exotics, and will be running in the stretch. Her female family produced A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and Honor Grades.

The Breeders' Cup may be the ultimate prize, but the final prep races are shaping up as great drama as well.