09/07/2006 12:00AM

Selected highlights of Spa season


NEW YORK - The best of the 336 races in 35 days that were Saratoga 2006:

Best horse race: The Diana on Aug. 4. The only Grade 1 race of the meeting to end in a multiway photo, with Angara edging Sweet Talker and Argentina.

Best 2-year-old: On accomplishment, Hopeful winner Circular Quay. Against the clock, maiden winners City Snitch (July 26) and Tiz Wonderful (Sept. 3), who each earned Beyer Speed Figures of 99.

Best 2-year-old filly: In a less than brilliant group, Appealing Zophie gets a timid vote for winning the Spinaway.

Best 3-year-old, and horse of the meeting: Bernardini, whose Jim Dandy and Travers victories made him look like as good a 3-year-old as any in this decade.

Best 3-year-old filly (tie): Alabama winner Pine Island on dirt, Lake George winner Wait a While on grass.

Best older male: Invasor, whose victory over Sun King in the Whitney gave him three American Grade 1's to go with his Uruguayan Triple Crown.

Best older female (tie): Spun Sugar for her Go for Wand, Fleet Indian for her Personal Ensign, and honorable mention to Balletto for running gamely while second in both races.

Best grass horse, all ages: Wait a While, whose Lake George thrashing of Lady of Venice, following her American Oaks victory at Hollywood in July, stamped her as something special.

Best sprinter, all ages: Dubai Escapade, whose Ballerina runaway was a shade more brilliant than Pomeroy's Forego and Henny Hughes's King's Bishop.

Best steeplechaser: Hirapour, for his 10-length Smithwick victory before he was injured in the New York Turf Writers Cup.

Best claimer: Crafty Commack, whose Aug. 6 victory for a $50,000 tag earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, the only claiming event among the 27 races at the meeting that earned a Beyer of more than 100.

Best elder statesman: Sovereign Kit, the 10-year-old, ungelded Argentine-bred claimed four summers ago by Gary Contessa, who ran fast-closing seconds in two claiming turf routes at the meet.

Best winning six-furlong time: Spooky Mulder, the 8-year-old Brunswick gelding who ran 1:09.06 winning an Aug. 20 $100,000 optional claimer to bring his career record to 27 for 67.

Best winning seven-furlong time: Discreet Cat's 1:21.53 winning an Aug. 25 allowance race in a performance as scintillating as either of Bernardini's.

Best winning nine-furlong dirt time: Invasor's 1:49.06, which along with Spun Sugar's 1:49.93 in the Go for Wand were the only two of 35 nine-furlong dirt races at the meeting to go in under 1:50. By contrast, 17 of the 22 nine-furlong grass races at the meet were won in under 1:50.

Best trainer: Todd Pletcher, whose 24 victories included nine graded stakes, four of the six graded juvenile stakes, and Grade 1 victories with Circular Quay, Fleet Indian, Go Deputy, and Spun Sugar.

Best non-Pletcher trainers (tie): Christophe Clement and Graham Motion, the top-10 trainers with the best winning percentages; Bill Mott, whose 10 winners included three on Travers Day and three grass stakes with After Market, Angara, and My Typhoon; and Nick Zito, whose 10 winners included six different 2-year-old first-time starters.

Best longshot trainer: John Hertler, whose two winners were among the seven biggest win mutuels at the meet: Baxter ($88) on July 31 and Oden's Tale ($59) on Aug. 31.

Best turf-sprint trainer: Linda Rice, five of whose six winners at the meeting came in 5 1/2-furlong grass races.

Best jockey (tie): Edgar Prado, who topped the standings with 46 winners; Julien Leparoux, who won 28 races as an apprentice in his first full Saratoga meet.

Best underrated jockey (tie): Cornelio Velasquez, who quietly tied John Velazquez with 30 winners, good for third in the standings behind Prado and Garrett Gomez (42); Fernando Jara, who cracked the top 10 with 11 winners and was flawless and patient winning the Diana with Angara and the Whitney with Invasor.

Best comeback rider (tie): Eibar Coa, who started the meet 1 for 38 but won with 26 of his next 152 to finish sixth in the standings; Jose Santos, who was 2 for 50 after four weeks but won seven races in the final two weeks and provided the winning edge for Indian Hawke and Dr. Bloomer.

Best longshot jockey: Kent Desormeaux, who rode three of the only seven winners at the meet who paid more than 30-1: Premium Tap ($64), Just in Fun ($66.50), and Baxter ($88).

Best thing about ending a 35-day meet with 13 Grade 1 stakes races: Beginning the 33-day Belmont fall meeting, which has 12.