10/04/2005 11:00PM

Stakes that turn babies into champions

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LAS VEGAS - Long before they became key preps for the Breeders' Cup, the Champagne Stakes and Frizette Stakes were the ultimate prizes for 2-year-olds.

Every decade has had a Champagne and a Frizette winner who were named juvenile champions of their divisions, and the 1960's were particularly memorable.

Cal-bred Donut King (by Determine), who was named after the late Verne H. Winchell, traveled east in 1961 to defeat a stellar group that included Jaipur and Sir Gaylord. Never Bend (Nasrullah) received a championship after winning the 1962 renewal, and became a prominent stallion. The diminutive Roman Brother (Third Brother) won the 1963 Champagne for Harbor View Farm after undefeated stablemate Raise a Native was retired because of an injury earlier in the year.

Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps of Wheatley Stable and her son, Ogden, owned the Champagne during the mid-60's. The flashy Bold Lad (Bold Ruler) romped to a lopsided victory in the 1964 Champagne for the Phippses following wins in the Sapling, Hopeful (established stakes record), and Futurity (equaled stakes record), and was champion 2-year-old. Buckpasser (Tom Fool) won the 1965 renewal, and in 1966, Successor (Bold Lad's full brother) rallied to defeat Dr. Fager for year-end honors. Vitriolic (Bold Ruler) won in 1967, and victories in a division of the Arlington-Washington Futurity and Pimlico Futurity sealed a fourth consecutive juvenile championship for the Phippses.

Top Knight (Vertex) won the Champagne, Hopeful, and Pimlico Futurity en route to his championship in 1968, and Silent Screen (Prince John) captured the juvenile championship in 1969 by winning 5 of 6 starts, including the Champagne.

Special decade for juvenile fillies

The 1960's were also a boom time for the fillies. Bowl of Flowers (a half-sister to Graustark and His Majesty) began the decade winning the 1960 Frizette, and other Frizette winners during this magical decade included Cicada, Tosmah, Queen Empress, Priceless Gem, Regal Gleam, Queen of the Stage, and Shuvee.

The year 1965 was particularly memorable. In addition to her six-length romp in the Frizette, Priceless Gem defeated the mighty Buckpasser by a half-length in the Futurity Stakes, but undefeated Moccasin already had the championship sewn up. Moccasin was so extraordinary that she was named co-Horse of the Year along with the champion older male, Roman Brother.

Lots of potential in 2005 contenders

First Samurai and Adieu would cement their positions as the favorites for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies in three weeks with victories this weekend.

Champagne: First Samurai, from the second crop of Giant's Causeway, is undefeated in three starts and has been impressive from the start, despite racing greenly. His raw talent has overcome his immaturity thus far, and further development in the Champagne would set him up perfectly for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. With Saratoga Special winner Henny Hughes in the race, a fast pace is assured, so while First Samurai was aggressive and wired his field in the Hopeful, he will have to harness his speed in the Champagne.

Four maiden winners make the big class jump to stakes company, but all were smart-looking winners and have pedigrees to suggest further improvement is likely, headed by Flanders Fields (A.P. Indy), who is out of the 1994 Frizette winner and champion juvenile filly, Flanders. The others are Menacing (Lemon Drop Kid), who should only improve over longer distances; Greater Fool (Exploit), out of a half-sister to stakes winner Eagleton, from a stakes-producing female family; and Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander), who won a maiden race at Saratoga by 14 lengths.

Another possible starter is Superfly, who recently won the Whirling Ash Stakes. A full brother to Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda's Hero, Superfly has something his older sibling lacks: speed. Superfly is a developing 2-year-old with a major-league pedigree. By Fusaichi Pegasus, he is from a King Ranch female family that has produced stakes winners over many generations. His fifth dam is a full sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault. His trainer, Nick Zito, has had particular success winning the Champagne, with The Groom Is Red (1998), Greenwood Lake (1999), A P Valentine (2000), and Birdstone (2003).

Frizette: Adieu is the favorite for the Frizette off her victory in the Spinaway Stakes. She is from the first crop of El Corredor.

Adieu faces three undefeated fillies with high speed. Keeneland Kat won the Sorority Stakes and has a pedigree that has speed on both sides (Hennessy out of a mare by Ogygian). Catch My Fancy (Yes It's True) won the Barretts Debutante Stakes and is bred to be precocious at 2. She has the Rasmussen Factor pattern, as she is inbred to an influential broodmare, Monique Rene. Monique Rene is the second dam of Yes It's True, and is also the dam of Walk Away Rene, the dam of Catch My Fancy. Mykindasaint tries top company after winning the Cassidy and Princess stakes at Calder. By speed influence Saint Ballado, her third dam is Queen Louie, 2-year-old champion in Canada and dam of stakes winners Gold Meridian and A Status Symbol. Perfect Soul, Gentleman Conn, and Brilliant Sandy descend from Queen Louie.

Another possible contender is Better Now, a maiden winner who is bred to be most effective at distances of one mile and beyond. By Thunder Gulch, she is out of an Unbridled mare who is a stakes-winning half-sister to stakes winners River Squall and Eastern Dude.

Along the Sea was third in the Spinaway and Matron and is by the late Anees from a female family full of stamina influences (Siberian Express, Roberto, Secretariat). Her fourth dam is multiple stakes winner and producer Barely Even.

Lasting Appeal won her only start and has pedigree power. A full sister to Jump Start (winner of the Saratoga Special and second in the Champagne Stakes), she is by A.P. Indy out of stakes-placed Steady Cat, a full sister to Apollo Cat and half-sister to Union City. Her second dam is a full sister to Miswaki.