11/29/2006 12:00AM

An unexpectedly eventful post-BC


PHILADELPHIA - When I leave town the day after the Breeders' Cup, my thoughts generally turn to college basketball. Really, what more could I learn about the racing year that I didn't already know once the championship races were run?

It is time to reevaluate. Just three weeks after the BC, last week's races seemed very much like a preview or a review or maybe both. You simply don't expect to see so many Beyers of more than 110 on one weekend in late November. Maybe, it has happened before, but I don't remember it. I do like it. You really need to keep paying attention.

From the Clark at Churchill Downs on Friday to the Hollywood Derby on Sunday, there were so many strong performances from so many horses that it is really hard to say one was more dazzling than the other.

Now, Discreet Cat's Cigar Mile at Aqueduct will get most of the play, which is perfectly understandable. He is so talented that he really does make difficult tasks seem quite simple. Are horses supposed to battle with a Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, shade 1:08 for six furlongs, run hard to the wire, and tie track records that have stood for 17 years? They're not, unless they are Discreet Cat, who is now 6 for 6 and still untested.

The Cigar Beyer was 116, which gives Discreet Cat American Beyers of 112, 115, and 116 in 2006. Originally, Discreet Cat was supposedly targeting the Kentucky Derby. Then, he got sick.

I can't imagine any horse beating Barbaro that day. I also can't imagine any horse beating Discreet Cat any day.

As good as Discreet Cat was, you could make a case that Premium Tap's performance in the Clark was as good or better. He got a career-best 115 Beyer and was still rolling at the wire, far ahead of the rest of the field. He did that despite taking forever to get into the gate and finally having to be backed in.

If you just look at his last four races, Premium Tap has to be considered among the best horses in training. He won the Woodward with a 107 Beyer. He got a bad ride and worse luck when he finished fifth in the Kentucky Cup Classic. With a reasonable ride and fair luck, he wins that race easily. Then, he finished third to Invasor and Bernardini in the BC Classic, in which he earned a 111 Beyer. Three weeks after that, he delivered the best performance of a 17-race career.

The 2007 Derby is already a fascinating prospect after watching Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Remsen and Tiz Wonderful in the Kentucky Jockey Club. I loved the acceleration of Nobiz Like Shobiz and the competitiveness of Tiz Wonderful. The Beyers confirmed what I saw. Nobiz Like Shobiz earned a 97, Tiz Wonderful earned a 101. These are very serious Derby hopefuls for next year.

Thor's Echo proved his Sprint win was no fluke by making another big run on the turn in the De Francis, refusing to be passed by Diabolical, and earning a 112 Beyer on top of the consecutive 116 Beyers in his previous races. The win puts him in the middle of the Eclipse discussion.

Finally, Showing Up demonstrated he could show up on the opposite coast and produce the same form he had in Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, Chicago, and New York. He fairly flew through the stretch and blew away the field in the Hollywood Derby. Showing up is now 3 for 4 on dirt, with his lone loss coming in the Kentucky Derby. He is 4 for 5 on grass, with his lone loss coming behind older grass stars Cacique and Go Deputy. If Showing Up improves with age, as so many grass horses do, they are all in for a rough go in 2007.

Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, also own Showing Up. Think about the chances of that happening for a relatively small outfit.

Think about this, too. It has been sort of lost now, but there is every chance Barbaro was better on grass than dirt, and he was really good on dirt, as he proved in the Derby. Showing Up got Beyers of 97, 100, and 99 in his three dirt starts. Obviously, he is really good on grass, but who is to say he could not duplicate that form on dirt?

Can you name the last American horse that was this proficient on dirt and turf? Can you imagine the same stable having two horses that fit the profile? The odds have to be powerball-like.