08/08/2006 12:00AM

Secretariat has been stepping-stone


LAS VEGAS - Inaugurated in 1974, the Secretariat Stakes, at 1 1/14 miles on turf, has become one of most important races for 3-year-olds, some of whom went on to greater stardom as older grass runners. The roster of winners includes Intrepid Hero, Text, Mac Diarmida, Golden Act, Hawkster, Awad, Vaudeville, Marlin, Honor Glide, Ciro, Startac, Chiselling, Kicken Kris, and Kitten's Joy.

Last year, Gun Salute defeated favorite English Channel and Chattahoochee War, and in 1995, Hawk Attack defeated the versatile Mecke. Super Abound defeated Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled in 1990, and in 1992 Ghazi defeated a future champion, Paradise Creek.

This year's edition pits leading U.S. grass stars Showing Up and Go Between against Europeans Ivan Denisovich and Primary. The field will also include Proudinsky, and Niagara Causeway.

Demonstrating unusual talent in winning all three of his starts earlier in the year, Showing Up was entered in the Kentucky Derby after his victory in Keeneland's Lexington Stakes, and while he performed admirably, his inexperience and lack of foundation showed in deep stretch and he finished sixth at 26-1.

Making his first start since the Derby, Showing Up won the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup impressively. even though he had shown ability on dirt, it was clear that turf was his element - not surprising considering his grass pedigree.

Showing Up is from the first crop of Strategic Mission, a half-brother to Grade 1 stakes winners Sultry Song (by Cox's Ridge) and Solar Splendor (Majestic Light). Strategic Mission's lone stakes victory was the 2001 Fort Marcy Handicap, and he also placed in four other grass stakes. Strategic Mission, unlike his half-siblings who enjoyed distances well beyond one mile, inherited his miler speed from his sire, Mr. Prospector and all of his stakes races were at one mile or 1 1/16 miles.

Showing Up inherits more grass ability from his damsire, T.V. Commercial. While T.V. Commercial achieved success on dirt, his sire was T.V. Lark, a major grass influence whose biggest victory came in the 1961 Washington D.C. International, when he defeated the great Kelso.

Distance the key

When Go Between got the chance to race 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the Virginia Derby, he finally showed his true talent. After a troubled trip where he finished third to Showing Up in the Colonial Turf Cup, Go Between found the absence of Showing Up and the added sixteenth of a mile the recipe for victory.

From the first crop of Point Given (Thunder Gulch) and out of a mare by Caerleon (Nijinsky II), Go Between was bred to love 1 1/4 miles. His second dam is by General Assembly, the second-best son of Secretariat (behind Risen Star), who was a strong turf influence. At 1 1/4 miles, Go Between has a better chance of turning the tables on Showing Up.

While the battle between Showing Up and Go Between should be entertaining, some Europeans may spoil their party.

Ivan Denisovich won the July Stakes, a Group 2, and was second in the Group 1 Prix Morny. His attempt last year in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was ill-conceived, since he is strictly bred for grass. By the late Danehill (Danzig's greatest son at stud), Ivan Denisovich is out of champion Hollywood Wildcat (Kris S.), making him a three-quarter-brother to Breeders' Cup Mile winner War Chant (Danzig) and a half-brother to Ministers Wild Cat (Deputy Minister). Danehill was a top miler, but his offspring have had great success at all distances, including the classic 1 1/4 miles and beyond.

An intriguing foreign invader is Primary, an American-bred colt who has raced exclusively in Europe, where he has been successful at the Secretariat distance. By Giant's Causeway, he is out of Prospective, a three-quarter-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Commendable. His second dam, Bought Twice, is a half-sister to the influential stallion Fappiano.

Niagara Causeway, third in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap, is another colt exclusively bred for turf. By Giant's Causeway, he is out of Theoretically (Theatrical), who was second in the Park Stakes, a Group 3, in Ireland and the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, and was third in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge - all on turf. Theoretically is a half-sister to a multiple grass stakes winner Cudas.

The German-bred Proudinsky was second in the Arlington Classic at nine furlongs on the turf and is another colt who will appreciate added distance. His sire, Silvano, defeated Hap and Reddatore in the 2001 Arlington Million.