01/28/2005 12:00AM

Time is ripe for Tamweel's emergence

Tamweel has a golden opportunity to win her first Grade 1 stakes in Sunday's Santa Monica.

PHOENIX - Azeri and Sightseek are gone, off to make little Azeris and Sightseeks. While it's sad for those of us who like to see superstars, it's good news for those in the division previously relegated to the sidelines to take center stage and make a name for themselves.

Sunday's Grade 1, seven-furlong Santa Monica at Santa Anita is one opportunity. It's not only the first Grade 1 of the season, but Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff may well have thinned the ranks even further as top fillies Yearly Report, House of Fortune, Dream of Summer, and Alphabet Kisses were scheduled to go there instead.

That must have Midwest-based trainer Tom Amoss all smiles as he sends his newly acquired Tamweel to Southern California for a shot at Grade 1 glory.

It's something of a homecoming for Tamweel. After winning her debut in England in August 2003 she came to the United States and was based at Santa Anita under the care of Sandy Shulman. She showed talent right off the bat, running well in a couple turf starts, but when Shulman put her on dirt in June 2004 and she whipped a nice optional claiming field, it not only opened up opportunities, it opened up eyes.

Tamweel was then purchased by new owners and sent to Wayne Catalano at Arlington. After a strong optional claiming win, Tamweel was entered in the Mariah's Storm there Aug. 13, and the result was another smashing victory.

Catalano must have known he was onto something. He moved Tamweel up to try the Grade 3 Arlington Matron on Sept. 4 and she ran big again. Only this time it wasn't big enough - she finished second to 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration. Convinced she was well on her way, Catalano took a swing at Azeri in the Grade 1 Spinster. Like most, Tamweel couldn't handle Azeri, but she was hardly embarrassed with a fine second. It set her up for yet another good run, this time in the BC Distaff. She showed speed and kept on well to be fourth.

Tamweel has since been purchased again, for a cool $1 million, and moved to Amoss, who has been pointing her for this as a stepping-off point toward a big 2005. But it's no prep. He realizes it's a Grade 1 race and despite the absence of some big names Tamweel must still deal with defending champ Island Fashion, who adores Santa Anita, having won multiple graded stakes here, Tizakitty, plus Argentine hotshot Salt Champ.

But Tamweel is a proven commodity at this level. Her speed should have her in the thick of it from the bell. She's a router with speed, and those kind often do very well when cut back to seven furlongs. She has worked in strong fashion and looks ready to take a whack at taking the spotlight.

How fast is fast?

There's an interesting experiment under way in Australia, where all races are on turf, regarding the assessment of track condition.

This experiment involves rating track condition by number instead of the time-honored method of rating tracks from fast all the way down to heavy. According to Australian officials, the numerical system allows for more more flexibility and imparts more information to the players on how it will play.

This will permit track managers to provide a more detailed and accurate description of track conditions for the benefit of trainers, jockeys, owners, and the public.

From now through April the old track descriptions of fast, good, dead, slow, and heavy will be issued along with the numerical rating.

The rating system is as follows:

1 (Fast) - Dry, hard track, firmer than a good track.

2 (Good) - Firm track with a reasonable grass coverage, on the fast side of good.

3 (Good) - Track with a good grass coverage and cushion. Ideal track, heading towards dead.

4 (Dead) - Track with some give in it, on the slow side of good.

5 (Dead) - Reasonable amount of give in it; slower than No. 4.

6 (Slow) - Worse than dead and into the slow range.

7 (Slow) - A track more affected by rain; on the better side of heavy.

8 (Heavy) - Soft track that horses will get into but not necessarily very wet.

9 (Heavy) - Softer track, getting into the squelchy area. Genuinely heavy.

10 (Heavy) - Very soft and wet track. Heaviest category.

There have been so many advances in so many aspects of handicapping over the past few decades, including speed figures, pace figures, sire and dam statistical analysis, ready availability of replays, and more accurate timing. But this is one area that has seen little or no advancement. Obviously a grid similar to the one above will need to be devised for the main track. Should the Australian experiment go well, this could be something to be examined more closely. Wouldn't it be nice to know if fast means fast or just not off?