09/26/2004 11:00PM

Pleasantly Perfect controls own destiny


NEW YORK - Even with 4 1/2 weeks and many critical prep races to go before the Breeders' Cup, many of the championship scenarios that will play out in the Breeders' Cup events have already come into focus.

For example, champion older horse, perhaps champion 3-year-old, and Horse of the Year will hinge greatly on the outcome of the Breeders' Cup Classic. This is not news, but it is easy to identify the different possibilities in this year's Classic.

If Pleasantly Perfect wins, there is no question that he will be champion older horse and quite likely Horse of the Year, what with earlier victories in the Pacific Classic, Dubai World Cup, and San Antonio. Ghostzapper, should he win, would be just as overwhelming a candidate for both awards in light of his earlier scores in the Woodward, Iselin, and Tom Fool. A victory by Roses in May would probably result in the same outcome, because it would mean the Whitney and Kentucky Cup Classic winner would have beaten both of the rivals ranked in front of him, and completed an undefeated campaign. If Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone wins, it wouldn't do much for the older male division. That would depend on how the others performed in defeat. But, it would be enough for Birdstone to snare the 3-year-old male title from Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones.

A couple of other divisions aren't quite as clear. In the 2-year-old male division, a successful candidate for a championship wouldn't even have to win a meaningful race until the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, as evidenced by Action This Day parlaying an improbable win in the Juvenile last year into an Eclipse Award. The male and female turf divisions are similar. Horses we have yet to set eyes on could come over from Europe, and if they are sufficiently impressive winning the Breeders' Cup Turf, Breeders' Cup Mile, or the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, that is all it would take for a title.

The other divisions, however, are clear-cut. Obviously, Azeri would clinch another older female championship with a win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. But, Azeri could lose and still win a championship, as long as she wins the Spinster, which is to be her next race, and as long as she doesn't lose the Distaff decisively to Sightseek. For Sightseek, even another romp in the Beldame won't help her in a championship context. She needs to win the Distaff. But, should Sightseek romp again in the Beldame and then avenge her loss to Azeri in the Go for Wand with a decisive win in the Distaff, she would be championship-worthy. A less likely scenario involves Storm Flag Flying. She would have to beat Sightseek in the Beldame and then prove with another victory in the Distaff that her victory over Azeri in the Personal Ensign wasn't entirely due to the help of others.

The Distaff also figures to have an impact on the 3-year-old filly championship. If Ashado turns in a commendable effort against her elders, and finishes in front of Society Selection, that would nail down divisional honors. If it goes the other way, and Society Selection is the one with the good effort versus the mares and finishes ahead of Ashado, then she may get the title, depending on how she fares in the Beldame. If Stellar Jayne should finish in front of both Ashado and Society Selection in the Distaff, then the default champ would be Ashado, because Ashado won in two of her four meetings with Stellar Jayne.

As for the 2-year-old filly division, Sense of Style already has a big lead on her contemporaries with victories in the Spinaway and Matron. She would, of course, be champ with a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. However, if Sense of Style wins the Alcibiades in her prep for the Juvenile Fillies, she could lose in the Breeders' Cup and still be champion.

Finally, the sprint division offers one of the more intriguing scenarios. Pico Central, who must be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Sprint, would have an excellent shot at a championship even if he doesn't run in the Sprint, but only if he beats Speightstown in Saturday's Vosburgh. Speightstown could lose to Pico Central in the Vosburgh, then come back to win the Sprint, and still be champ, because some Eclipse Award voters don't like horses who miss the Breeders' Cup. On the other hand, Speightstown could win the Vosburgh over Pico Central and lose in the Sprint, and still be champ, as long as he runs well in defeat and doesn't lose the Sprint to Pico Central or Midas Eyes. And, Midas Eyes could be champ with a convincing win in the Sprint.

There may be some scenarios that I haven't thought of, and there may well be new scenarios created in the aftermath of major Breeders' Cup preps over the next two weekends. It's all part of what makes this such an interesting time of year. Stay tuned.