11/14/2003 12:00AM

Unknowns now, but wait till next year

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PHOENIX - At this time last year the big guns in the 2-year-old division were easily identifiable. Vindication, Kafwain, Toccet, and even the lightly raced Empire Maker were the horses to watch for the following season.

It's not nearly as clear this year. Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day previously had only a maiden win to his credit. Ruler's Court, Eurosilver, Birdstone, and Silver Wagon weren't there on BC Day to validate their claim for the top spot. The Cliff's Edge has only recently pushed his name forward.

The upcoming 3-year-old picture often is murky at best, but this year may be even more confusing than usual. So, let's throw out a few names you may not know. After all, at this juncture of their 2-year-old campaigns who really knew Funny Cide, War Emblem, Monarchos, Fusaichi Pegasus, Charismatic, or Real Quiet?

Consecrate: It really can't be a Derby horses-to-watch list without a Bob Baffert-trained juvenile. While things have been slow for him this year on the 2-year-old front, save for the fillies Victory U. S. A. and Class Above, Baffert has much to look forward to for 2004 with Consecrate. He fits the profile of a horse that can make some noise on the Triple Crown trail - not too brilliant as a juvenile, but with a steady, improving pattern particularly as the furlongs add up.

Consecrate remains, in the words of his trainer, "awfully green." Baffert reportedly worked with Consecrate to try and get him to run from behind, to be able to take dirt and still finish. He did that wonderfully when he won his maiden at Del Mar, but then was dull in the Norfolk.

Consecrate ran well in the BC Juvenile. He made a smart early move to press a sizzling pace and while most of the horses near that pace completely fell apart in the lane, Consecrate showed durability and guts, finishing fifth. He's by Silver Charm out of a Saratoga Six mare and has continued to work strongly since the Juvenile. He was scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3 Prevue at Hollywood going seven furlongs and bears watching regardless of his performance.

Purge: Todd Pletcher has had a mighty big year with 2-year-olds, with such high-profile horses as Chapel Royal, Value Plus, and Heckle. But Purge, a son of Pulpit, has the makings of a horse who could do some damage when allowed to go long. Purge debuted in super style at Saratoga on Aug. 16, blasting through a narrow gap on the far turn and pulling clear to win by four, earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

He then had surgery to remove a flake from his ankle, but reportedly will be back working soon. Pulpit, himself fourth in the Kentucky Derby, has sired graded stakes-winning distance horses Sky Mesa and Essence of Dubai, so there's some stamina here.

Siphonizer: I have to admit I was getting awfully excited in the BC Juvenile when I saw a horse in the silks of B. Wayne Hughes taking the lead. You see, I had backed Siphonizer at a hefty 22-1. Unfortunately, I managed to bet the one Richard Mandella trainee who failed to do a thing. It was another Hughes horse, Action This Day, who was surging to the lead. Siphonizer was going the other way, and eventually finished 10th.

Siphonizer showed plenty of talent when he beat Minister Eric, runner-up in the BC Juvenile, in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, and he had excuses in his other losses. When Siphonizer lost the Grade 3 Best Pal at Del Mar prior to the Futurity he had a brutal trip. He then displaced his palate when fourth in the Grade 2 Norfolk and again in the BC Juvenile.

Siphonizer had a myectomy in an attempt to fix the palate displacement issue. Should that work you have a horse with tactical speed and guts, and who is by a sire (Siphon) who relished 10 furlongs. It's far too early to give up on him.

El Prado Rob: Nick Zito is already loaded for bear with Birdstone, Eurosilver, and The Cliff's Edge, but he may have another one here. We will find out more in two weeks when he goes in the Grade 2 Remsen, but the way he romped in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 18 (84 Beyer) keeps optimism high.

He's by El Prado, who has sired multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro and Cornhusker winner Nite Dreamer, and has plenty of stamina on the bottom in the form of a Seeking the Gold mare.

Leading the Parade: What's a potential early Derby list without the black and cherry? The Phipps family colors may well fly to some glory with this beautifully bred runner who has yet to make a start.

Leading the Parade is by A.P. Indy, one of the classiest sires around. He's also out of My Flag, who won the BC Juvenile Fillies. She is a daughter of the marvelous Easy Goer and the great unbeaten champ Personal Ensign. My Flag is also the dam of last year's BC Juvenile Fillies winner, Storm Flag Flying. While Storm Flag Flying's 2003 season didn't work out so well, there was no doubt about her class and quality.

Leading the Parade, trained by Shug McGaughey, has been working in solid and steady fashion in New York the past few months, and judging by the string of drills could be ready to surface anytime soon.