02/03/2005 1:00AM

Ratings concur Ghostzapper best


NEW YORK - Ghostzapper beat Smarty Jones in the balloting for Horse of the Year, and beat him again in the 2004 United States Thorough-bred Ratings, which were released Wednesday.

Ghostzapper was the top-rated older horse with a final rating of 130. Ghostzapper, like all others rated, received a rating for each of his stakes performances in 2004. His 130 final rating represents the highest rating he received all year, which was earned in his emphatic victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Smarty Jones was the top-rated 3-year-old of 2004, but his final rating of 128, earned in his electrifying Preakness score, fell shy of Ghostzapper's final rating.

The ratings were compiled by the North American Ratings Committee comprising Frank Gabriel Jr. of Arlington Park, Chris Evans of Woodbine Entertainment, Mike Lakow of the New York Racing Association, Tom Robbins of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Martin Panza of Hollywood Park. Every Thoroughbred who started in a stakes race in the United States in 2004 was eligible to be rated.

The next-highest rated at 124 was also the second-highest rated older horse, Breeders' Cup Classic runner- up Roses in May.

Smarty Jones enjoyed a 6-point edge over the next highest rated 3-year-old, Kitten's Joy. However, Kitten's Joy's rating of 122, earned for winning the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, made him the highest-rated American turf horse of 2004 of any age.

Not only did the committee issue overall final ratings, but it also broke the ratings down into the SMILE (Sprint, Mile, Intermediate, Long, and Extended) distance categories used by the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. The SMILE category rankings were generated for both dirt and turf performances.

According to Gabriel, the Sprint category includes stakes from 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 furlongs, the Mile covers stakes from 8 to 9 furlongs, the Intermediate consists of stakes from 9 1/2 furlongs to 10 furlongs, the Long races from 11 furlongs to 12 furlongs, and the Extended are stakes beyond 12 furlongs.

The final ratings for the older sprint category were particularly interesting. Pico Central topped that category with a rating of 123, which he earned winning the Vosburgh, and which made him the fourth-highest horse rated overall. Speightstown, who won the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter of 2004 over Pico Central, was rated at 122 in his wins in both the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.