01/29/2002 1:00AM

Two have the class on grass

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LAS VEGAS - There are actually some exciting 3-year-olds who do not have the Kentucky Derby on their agendas. These 3-year-olds are bred for grass, and one of them is Worldly Victor, who is from the first crop of a relatively unknown but exquisitely bred stallion, World Stage (by Sadler's Wells), and another is Honor in War (Lord at War).

Worldly Victor won the inaugural running of the Dave Feldman Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 14, defeating Charming Colony (Colony Light) and Lord Juban (Lord Avie). Worldly Victor began his career on dirt in a $32,000 maiden claiming race for 2-year-olds last August at Calder and didn't show much after a poor start. After winning his second start in a $25,000 maiden claiming race, he moved up in company, finishing second in a one-mile dirt allowance and then winning his turf debut despite being bumped. On Dec. 1, he finished ninth in the Mecke Stakes behind multiple stakes winner Political Attack, but was five wide and finished only 6 1/4 lengths behind the winner. For the Dave Feldman Stakes, trainer Philip Gleaves added blinkers and went to Pat Day. Without much early speed, Worldly Victor settled in mid-pack and angled out in the stretch and rallied for the victory.

August Storm (Storm Creek), the only filly in the field, was sent off as the even-money favorite off three consecutive stakes victories on the turf (Prom, Lulu's Ransom, and Hollywood Wildcat) against fillies, but weakened to finish fifth after stalking the leaders three wide most of the way.

Worldly Victor was bred for turf on both sides of his pedigree. His sire, World Stage, is by Sadler's Wells, and his dam is by Runaway Groom, who is by Blushing Groom. Blushing Groom was a champion at 2 in France, and also a champion at 3 in France and England. Blushing Groom was a versatile stallion, getting winners on all surfaces, but his runners excelled on turf, such as Nashwan, Rainbow Quest, Rahy, Groom Dancer, and Fire the Groom. In addition, Worldly Victor's second dam is by Assagai, the 1966 turf champion.

World Stage started only three times at 3 in Ireland, with one second-place finish. But his pedigree guaranteed his value as a stallion. He is a half-brother to stakes winner and sire Sword Dance and is a full brother to a champion steeplechaser, Correggio. World Stage is yet another example of the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals). Both his sire (Sadler's Wells) and dam (Rosa Mundi) come from the same female family. World Stage is inbred to the influential broodmare Thong, 4x3. Thong is a full sister to champion 2-year-old filly and 1965 co-Horse of the Year Moccasin, as well as to stakes winners Ridan and Lt. Stevens. As a broodmare, Thong produced the full sisters Special and Lisadell. Special produced Nureyev and Fairy Bridge, the dam of Sadler's Wells. Lisadell produced three stakes winners, as well as stakes-placed Rosa Mundi. El Condor Pasa, Japan's 3-year-old champion and second to Montjeu in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, also descends from this legendary female family.

Honor in War, who was making his first start since November when he defeated stakes winner Rylstone (Mecke) at Churchill Downs, was four wide entering the stretch and in good position to win the Dave Feldman but finished fourth, a nose behind Lord Juban. Honor in War appeared to be short for this race and may be the one to watch in the Feb. 22 Palm Beach Stakes, where he is likely to face Worldly Victor.

Honor in War is from the last crop of Lord at War, an exceptional racehorse and sire. Lord at War, a champion miler at 3 in Argentina, was imported to the United States at 4 and won the Citation, Native Diver, and Goodwood handicaps. At 5, he won the Santa Anita Handicap as well as the San Antonio and Goodwood handicaps.

Honor in War is bred along the same lines as stakes winner La Gueriere. La Gueriere is by Lord at War out of Lady Winborne, while Honor in War is out of Catumbella, a granddaughter of Lady Winborne. In addition to La Gueriere (the dam of stakes winner and freshman sire Lasting Approval), Lady Winborne's other stakes winners include Al Mamoon, Born Wild, Lost Soldier, and Lord of Warriors. She is also the dam of three stakes-placed runners, as well as an unraced daughter, Lady Lady, the dam of stakes winner Lovat's Lady.

Lady Winborne's dam is Priceless Gem, a freaky-fast 2-year-old filly who won the 1965 Frizette Stakes and defeated Buckpasser and other colts in the Futurity Stakes. Priceless Gem's stakes-winning full sister Admiring is the matriarch of another incredibly successful branch of this family. Admiring is the dam of Glowing Tribute, who produced seven stakes winners, including a Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero.

With a family like this, it shouldn't be too long before Honor in War gets his first stakes victory.