03/25/2002 12:00AM

Score one for big brother


ARCADIA, Calif. - Clearly, time flies when you're having fun. It's the airplanes that are so darn slow. Consider this:

It was only 51 years ago that Warren Stute unleashed Great Circle to win the Santa Anita Maturity, which, with its grand purse of $205,700, made it the richest race on the planet. The 1951 Kentucky Derby, by comparison, offered a mere $126,000, plus flowers.

A lad of 29 at the time, not far removed from his Indiana roots, Stute had been in business for himself barely three years. You can't blame him, then, if he thought that racing was an easy game, and that such success would last forever. In order to win the '51 Maturity, all Stute had to do was lead Great Circle down the road from his Santa Anita stall and toss Bill Shoemaker into the saddle.

Things have gotten a bit more complicated, but Saturday night in Dubai the results were pretty much the same. Stute had to travel nearly 9,000 miles through 12 time zones in order to join Grey Memo and Gary Stevens for their date in the $1 million Godolphin Mile. Grey Memo won - very easily, in fact - giving rise to the notion that while life might not begin at 80, it can still be a load of fun.

"I've had a lot of satisfying wins for a lot of good people," said Stevens, who stopped off Monday in New York for a midweek date with his Derby horse, Sunday Break. "But winning for Warren Stute, and seeing his face after the race - that might have been the most personally satisfying of all."

The idea of Warren Stute suddenly becoming a player on the international racing scene may take some getting used to. Stute is a lot of things - a superior horseman, loyal, dedicated and honest to a fault - but diplomacy has never been one of his abiding traits.

"He's old-school for sure, and one of the best," Stevens went on.

"Command and control - that's what he's about. Here's a man who used to drive behind the van through the fog from L.A. to Golden Gate, just to make sure his horses got there safe, so he could lead them off and bed them down himself.

"After the race he was talking about Great Circle," Stevens added, "and how he saw that $205,000 purse advertised on TV. Great Circle won the Del Mar Derby the year before, worth $15,000, and he thought, 'How can Warren Stute win a $205,000 horse race?'

"Then last night, after winning a million-dollar race, you know what he says? 'We just made a hell of a lot of money, Stevens. And I made enough to take out a full-page ad in the Daily Racing Form and tell all these people just how many good horses Melvin Stute has trained.' "

Before last weekend, Warren's younger brother Mel was considered the celebrity in the family, and Warren has spent most of his time making sure everyone knows it. At the age of 74, Mel Stute has trained two champions, two Breeders' Cup winners, and won the Preakness with Snow Chief.

Such accomplishments have not gone completely unnoticed. Mel is a candidate on the 2002 Hall of Fame ballot for enshrinement in Saratoga Springs, and his stats alone should put him there. Never mind that he's a nice guy and one of the game's best ambassadors. With 94 individual stakes winners to his credit, Mel towers over this year's other candidates - Sonny Hine (46 stakes winners) and Buddy Delp (68 stakes winners). Whether or not Warren takes out his ad, such numbers should count for something.

Big brother Warren also has a record that stands scrutiny from all sides. Between Great Circle and Grey Memo there were major stakes victories with such runners as Figonero, June Darling, Table Mate, Snow Sporting, Magical Maiden, and Tonga in races like the Vanity Handicap, Del Mar Debutante, Hollywood Gold Cup, Strub Stakes, Norfolk Stakes, Hollywood Starlet, Oak Leaf Stakes, and Sunset Handicap. He also won a little race called the Snow Chief Stakes two years ago at Hollywood Park . . . with Grey Memo.

Mel Stute took the news of Warren's victory in Dubai with pride. After all, Snow Chief is the sire of Mozelle, the dam of Grey Memo. Mel's only regret was the fact that he could not share parimutuelly in his brother's triumph. Since there was no wagering offered on the Godolphin Mile through the Arlington simulcast hub, Mel couldn't get down at Santa Anita. And since there is no gambling allowed by Islaam law in Dubai, he couldn't send a bet with his brother.

"Warren will probably have to lend me money when he gets back," Mel said with a laugh. "He's got a reputation as being a pretty tough guy. But he's really an easy touch. Very generous.

"I remember when he won with Great Circle," Mel added. "When the race was over, he was so excited he slapped our mom on the back so hard he broke her bra. Then he bought her a new kitchen."

Warren Stute got home late Sunday night. You can guess where he was Monday morning. The last time Stute missed his early stable rounds he was in a hospital bed, his head dangerously rattled from falling off a horse. Trudy, his wife of 46 years, did not bother to suggest that he sleep in, just this once.

"That would be out of the question," she said early Monday. "He's very tired, but he's also very energized by the joy of winning."