10/30/2007 11:00PM

Three Cup performances stood out

EmailPHILADELPHIA - The 11 Breeders' Cup races last weekend at Monmouth Park gave us a bit of everything - the power of early speed, flying finishes, a great stretch duel, one performance that promises much for 2008, and two performances that got within one Beyer point of the rarified air of 120.

First, the future. Thirty-nine minutes apart, War Pass ran two seconds faster than Indian Blessing as both clinched Eclipse Awards and dominated the 2-year-old races with their speed. War Pass's time of 1:42.76 computed to a Beyer Figure of 113, a figure that was three points better than Street Sense earned when he won this year's Kentucky Derby.

In his four starts, War Pass has never been behind a horse and has gotten Beyers of 84, 94, 103, and 113. As patterns go, that is a rather nice one.

What does that portend for 2008? If this were a nice, neat world, War Pass would keep improving his Beyers by 10 points each time he runs and would win the Derby by 100 lengths and earn a 140 Beyer. The Beyer world is no nicer or neater than the real world. It is equally complicated.

Is it possible War Pass just caught a sloppy track he loved and won't come back to the 113? Possible. Is it also possible he is a need-the-lead horse that won't be as effective under early pressure? Equally possible. Is it also possible that this is a really, really fast horse with unlimited potential? Also possible. The answers begin to come next year.

Anybody who saw Corinthian blow away Belmont Stakes winner Jazil in February at Gulfstream Park knew this was a colt with rare talent. Anybody who saw his tour de force in May's Metropolitan Handicap also knew it. What you didn't know was exactly when Corinthian was going to fire a big one.

It was hard to see through the gloaming late Friday afternoon, but that was, in fact, Corinthian running through the stretch like the colt had just jumped into the race around the far turn. The video, however, indicated Corinthian had been there the whole time. The move around the turn and into the stretch was quite insane. He went on to win by 6 1/2 lengths. It just seemed like more. Monmouth-loving Gottcha Gold was 8 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Discreet Cat, bet down to favoritism based solely on his reputation.

Whenever you see margins like that, you can expect a big Beyer. It was, in fact, a 119. With that, Corinthian was off to stud, the kind of goodbye breeders should love.

Which brings us to Curlin. There was never any secret about the most talented member of the 3-year-old class. Street Sense had that great turn move on the rail. Hard Spun had the most speed. Curlin had the most natural ability and the biggest upside.

In nine months, over nine races, Curlin went from unraced to a 119 Beyer in the Classic. I don't have to look it up to know this has not happened. This cannot happen. But this did happen.

Curlin raced once in every month but July and May, when he raced twice. He was always shipping in to race. He was always giving away experience. He made some kind of move in every race.

I remember watching his maiden win. It was a revelation. And how good does 2-1 in that race look now?

Go back and watch his Arkansas Derby. That was the tipoff to the depth of Curlin's talent. He was absolutely push-button.

I couldn't imagine Curlin winning the Derby off such limited experience. That he came through so many horses to run third was almost like a win to me. Still, I wondered about the Preakness, even though I picked Curlin that day. A normal horse, after so much racing in so limited a time, could have hit the wall. Instead, Curlin ran through it. Street Sense had the race won. Then, he didn't. Curlin gave an awe-inspiring rally.

I can't explain why Street Sense did not keep running in the Classic. Visually, he came out of the final turn just like he came out of his brilliant work on Wednesday, hard by the rail and rolling. I thought I was seeing a replay of the work. I thought I was looking at the winner.

But it was a mirage. Street Sense wasn't gaining on Curlin. In fact, Curlin was accelerating like the stretch was downhill. Hard Spun had a big lead. In a blink, Hard Spun was second. Curlin's stride is so long and so fluid that once he starts to roll, forget it.

Now, the owners are debating 2008 for Curlin - breed or race. Everybody knows the economic numbers. I know Beyer numbers. I would really like to see the kind of Beyer numbers a 4-year-old Curlin might earn. Just imagine.