01/07/2008 12:00AM

Two colts with classic potential

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Derby is four months away. So those colts (and perhaps a filly or two) with classic aspirations need to be stepping out of the shadows and grabbing some graded earnings if they want to earn a spot among the premier young athletes at Churchill Downs in 20 weeks.

The Kentucky-bred Cowboy Cal, owned and bred by the Stonerside Stable of Robert and Janice McNair, won his third race in a row with a two-length victory in the Tropical Park Derby, which Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro used two years ago as the starting point of his classic campaign.

Barbaro was a son of the Roberto stallion Dynaformer, a sire of fine performers on both turf and dirt but generally considered a turf sire before the appearance of his best son, and Cowboy Cal is by the Storm Cat stallion Giant's Causeway, a champion on turf in Europe whose best performers have raced on grass.

But Giant's Causeway also ran a game second by a neck to Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which was his only start on dirt. Sire of European classic winner Shamardal in his first crop, Giant's Causeway had the Grade 1 turf winner My Typhoon last year, as well as the highly rated Fairbanks, who ran second in the Grade 1 Suburban on dirt.

So it would appear that any inclination to be limited by racing surface would be an individual preference, not a general one, for the stallion's stock.

Cowboy Cal is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Texas Tammy. Unplaced in her only start, Texas Tammy doesn't offer much information from her own racing career that would bear on the prospects of her son as a classic prospect on dirt, but her sire is one of the most universally accepted sires of quality performers on both turf and on dirt.

Among Seeking the Gold's most famous offspring are Dubai Millennium, a champion in Europe on turf who also won the Dubai World Cup on dirt; Belmont Stakes winner Jazil; and Japanese champion Seeking the Pearl, who showed her best form on turf.

So in terms of his pedigree, Cowboy Cal would appear to be a solid prospect to translate his good stakes form onto either surface, and the great challenge for him and all the other talented colts with classic aspirations will be the depth of their ability.

A dark brown colt, Cowboy Cal is the fourth foal out of his dam, who is a half-sister to one of the most durable distance performers of the past decade: Behrens. A typical son of Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony, Behrens was a rangy, plain-headed horse who ground out his races with determination but who would not have shown any verve if you had stuck a firecracker under his tail.

In a lengthy career, Behrens earned more than $4.5 million, making him the most accomplished performer out of his dam, the Mari's Book mare Hot Novel. The 10-year-old Texas Tammy became the third daughter of Hot Novel to produce a stakes horse with Cowboy Cal.

Texas Tammy was barren in 2006 but produced a chestnut filly by the Pulpit stallion Purge in 2007 and is back in foal to that sire.

The racing success of Cowboy Cal shows that this family has bred on successfully for another generation, and the colt is not the only star on the horizon for his famous sire, Giant's Causeway, who is generally accepted as the best stallion son of Storm Cat to date.

The New York-bred colt Giant Moon was considered one of the favorites for Saturday's Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct, and the son of Giant's Causeway and the Capote mare Moonlightandbeauty came into that race unbeaten in three starts.

Winner of the Sleepy Hollow and Damon Runyon stakes for owner-breeder Albert Fried, Giant Moon has the reputation of being somewhat lazy in his races, but the colt has not shown any difficulty handling dirt tracks or in stretching out to race around two turns.

Giant Moon is the first foal out of his 9-year-old dam, who raced from 2 through 4 and won a restricted stakes in her last season of racing.

Moonlightandbeauty is by juvenile champion Capote and is out of the major stakes winner Stolen Beauty, who won the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes as a juvenile in 1991.

As with Cowboy Cal, the pedigree of Giant Moon indicates speed and continuing maturity allied with sufficient classic potential to suggest that distance will not prove a stumbling block if the natural ability is present.