06/07/2007 12:00AM

Two opportunities for historic first


LEXINGTON, Ky. - If either Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago or Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches wins the Belmont Stakes, the winner's dam would reach a unique milestone as the producer of two winners of a Triple Crown race.

A son of Pleasant Tap, Tiago is a half-brother to 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo (by Holy Bull), and the grand-looking A.P. Indy filly Rags to Riches is a half-sister to last year's Belmont winner Jazil (Seeking the Gold).

The dam of Tiago is the Stop the Music mare Set Them Free, a bay born in 1990. A stakes winner at 2 and 4, Set Them Free has become a sterling broodmare. In addition to a classic winner in Giacomo and a second Grade 1 winner in Tiago, the mare also is the dam of Sea Jewel, who placed in graded stakes and earned nearly $200,000.

The mare's 2-year-old is a full brother to Tiago. Set Them Free produced a dark bay colt by Pulpit on April 28 and has been bred back to Giant's Causeway on a May 27 cover.

Tiago made a good run in the Kentucky Derby last month, and he will draw some monetary support from bettors in his bid for classic glory. His versatile sire, Pleasant Tap, was an Eclipse Award winner and raced with distinction in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and in the BC Classic, finishing second to Horse of the Year A.P. Indy in the Classic.

Pleasant Tap is by Kentucky Derby winner Pleasant Colony, one of the most consistent sires of classic-type racehorses in the U.S. over the past couple of decades.

Pleasant Colony's successor as a sire of racing stock with the aptitude and athleticism to be classic performers is Pleasant Tap's old rival A.P. Indy.

The best stallion son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy is out of the great broodmare Weekend Surprise, by Triple Crown winner Secretariat. Saying that A.P. Indy is bred for the classics is nearly an understatement, and as well-pedigreed as he undoubtedly is, the grand-looking bay horse matched pedigree with physical quality and racing excellence.

A Grade 1 winner at 2 and a champion at 3, A.P. Indy won the Belmont Stakes during his championship season, when he also won the Santa Anita Derby and BC Classic at the Grade 1 level.

If Rags to Riches wins the Belmont, she would join Point Given (by Belmont winner Thunder Gulch), Risen Star (Secretariat), and her sire A.P. Indy as Belmont Stakes winners of the past 20 years who were sired by Belmont winners.

A victory by Rags to Riches also would be notable as only the third success by a filly in the history of the Belmont Stakes, which was first run in 1867. The first filly winner was Ruthless, winner of the inaugural classic 140 years ago, and the second was Tanya, winner of the Belmont 102 years ago.

Part of the reason so few fillies have won the classic is that few have ever been entered for it, and only four fillies have competed in the Belmont in the past 30 years. This elite quartet of Genuine Risk, Winning Colors, My Flag, and Silverbulletday were all championship-level performers, and Genuine Risk and Winning Colors won the Kentucky Derby.

The 1980 Derby winner Genuine Risk fared best of the group in the Belmont, with a second to champion 3-year-old colt Temperence Hill, and My Flag ran a good third in 1996 to Editor's Note and Skip Away.

As indicated by the caliber of the fillies who have tried to win the Belmont in recent decades, a victory by Rags to Riches would indeed place her in exalted company. A Belmont success would be the second consecutive triumph in the race for a foal out of the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour, and would elevate that mare into the pantheon of American classic producers.

A Grade 2 stakes winner who ran second in the Grade 1 Acorn and third in the Grade 1 Mother Goose, Better Than Honour has already scaled the heights of prestige as a broodmare. Her first foal was the highly talented Teeming (Storm Cat), a winner in 3 of her 4 starts, and her third was Jazil, who showed his best form to win the Belmont last June.

Rags to Riches is the mare's fourth foal. Already a multiple Grade 1 winner, Rags to Riches won the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby. A victory by open lengths in the Belmont would do more than make Rags to Riches the answer to a half-dozen trivia questions. It would tell us that she's the best racehorse in the crop.