12/22/2005 12:00AM

Two unconventional choices

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Four-Footed Fotos
Indian Vale's victory over older opponents in the Falls City (above) is one reason she's 2005's best 3-year-old filly.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Santa is making a list and checking it twice, but turf writers are left to more mundane matters during the holidays, such as filling out their Eclipse Award ballots:

Steeplechase - McDynamo closed out the year winning the Breeders' Cup 'Chase and the Colonial Cup.

Two-year-old colt or gelding - Stevie Wonderboy shipped across the country to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, beating the East's best.

Three-year-old colt or gelding - Afleet Alex was a formality, because you're kind of obligated to vote for a horse that came within a length of the Triple Crown. Truth be told, I did consider the merits of Travers winner and BC Classic runner-up Flower Alley for a few moments.

Three-year-old filly - My choice, Indian Vale, did not even start in a Grade 1 race, but I didn't want to let semantics get in the way of voting for the filly who stood head-and-shoulders above the more traditional choices in a weak division. The only triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures on a fast track at a mile or longer belonged to In the Gold (100), Round Pond (101), and Sis City (101). Smuggler, the lone dual Grade 1 winner, ran figures of only 93 and 94 winning the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks.

With figures of 108-104-109 that included a dominating win over older rivals in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap, Indian Vale towered over the field, and she would have been a prohibitive favorite had they all met at Hypothetical Downs.

Older colt or gelding - Saint Liam won Grade 1 races from February to October, and did not run at the same racetrack twice until concluding the season at Belmont Park with wins in the Woodward and BC Classic. Opponents he handled with ease came back to win such important races as the Dubai World Cup and Pimlico Special.

Older filly or mare - That Ashado came within a neck of Azeri's filly-mare earnings record is a testament to her durability and consistency. Those qualities led to three more Grade 1 victories this year against some suspect opposition, and that was enough to put her over the top. I would still bet against her any day of the week, though, because she just wasn't that fast.

Sprinter - I voted for Ghostzap-per. He raced just once at 5, but his Met Mile was the single most breathtaking performance of the year, and it was the fastest race within the sprint division by several lengths.

I think Lost in the Fog is a game horse, a terrific shipper, and among the most well managed horses in the game. But when the pressure was turned up in the BC Sprint he threw up the white flag. No student of pace who takes Quirin-style figures seriously could vote for him in good conscience, because his best Beyers came only when he was allowed to set slow fractions.

Male turf horse - Leroidesani-maux beat one of the deepest turf groups of the year off a layoff at Santa Anita; set a course record at Saratoga; and won by a record margin at Woodbine. Then he nearly won the BC Mile from a horrible post despite foot issues that necessitated an aluminum pad.

Female turf horse - Intercont-inental won major stakes from April to October in Kentucky, California, and New York, at distances ranging from eight to 10 furlongs.

Horse of the Year - Saint Liam.

Trainer - Todd Pletcher.

Jockey - John Velazquez.

Apprentice - Channing Hill.

Breeder - Adena Springs Farm

Owner - Live Oak Plantation.