02/20/2008 1:00AM

War Pass? He's no Peppers Pride


PHILADELPHIA - While everyone awaits the 2008 debut of War Pass, I am wondering if all the excitement is worth it. Yes, the colt is perfect. Yes, he has been in front from the start of all his races. Yes, he won those races by a combined 14 lengths. Yes, his initial Beyer Speed Figure of 84 improved by 10 points in his second start, then nine points and then 10 points again in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

But, seriously, War Pass is just 4 for 4. Is this really something to get excited about?

I know a lot about War Pass. But War Pass is no Peppers Pride.

You may be waiting for the first 2008 start of War Pass. I am waiting for the 2008 debut of Peppers Pride.

Apparently, I will have to wait longer than you.

Peppers Pride is working steadily at Sunland Park, but may not run for a while. There is one report that said she might not run until April 26, when she is going defend one of her many stakes titles. I am not sure I can wait.

Now, 4 for 4 is nice, but Peppers Pride is 14 for 14. The 5-year-old mare won three races as a 2-year-old, four as a 3-year-old, and seven as a 4-year-old, most recently on Dec. 16. She has won at Ruidoso Downs, Zia Park, Sun Ray Park, and Sunland Park. Which is sort of like saying she has won at Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Saratoga. Really, can you name one other horse that has won at those four New Mexico tracks without ever losing?

A daughter of Desert God, who is a son of Fappiano (a very good son of Mr. Prospector), Peppers Pride is certainly the greatest New Mexico-bred of our time. Her dam, Lady Pepper, won $12,043 in 49 starts, so it would be fair to say Peppers Pride has outrun her dam's side.

Peppers Pride, racing strictly against New Mexico-breds (Kentucky-breds are barred from crossing the border), has amassed $765,665. Didn't know there was that much money in New Mexico, did you? Apparently, they have slot machines out there.

Only three of her wins have been by more than two lengths. Peppers Pride has won by less than a length just four times. She does just enough. They still talk about the nose win at Zia on Oct. 17, 2006, when she withstood a long drive and put her nose down at the wire like some female John Henry running down The Bart.

Peppers Pride started off in an allowance, her connections apparently wanting to give the others a chance. They had none as she won by 4 1/2 lengths and paid a career-high $12. She paid $10 in her second start and $7 in her third.

Peppers Pride has been the favorite in every start but two since then. What were they thinking in those other two races?

Ten of her wins are in stakes. She has led wire to wire just once, preferring to sit back and demoralize her foes in the stretch. She has never run against males.

The mare is not likely to duplicate War Pass's 113 Beyer anytime soon, but that generally is not necessary in those New Mexico-bred races. Peppers Pride got a 63 in her first start. Half a year later, she was up to 79. She hung in the mid-70 to low-80 range until last summer when the bigger cash was down, and the competition came from all over New Mexico.

She was 2-5 on July 29, 2007, at Ruidoso when she got caught in a race-long duel and held on to beat Theregoesdancer by a half-length and earn a career-high 88 Beyer. They were calling her the female Affirmed as she left the winner's circle.

Three months later at Zia, Theregoesdancer was back to try Peppers Pride again. Many thought this would be the day that the streak might end. They just didn't get it.

Peppers Pride disdainfully circled the field, ran by Theregoesdancer like she was the sixteenth pole, and won by a career-best seven lengths with another career-best Beyer of 95. Poor Theregoesdancer was a disappearing second.

There have been 105 horses behind Peppers Pride in her races. War Pass, by contrast, has beaten just 32 horses. And one of them, Pyro, has finished behind War Pass three times. Anybody know what has become of Pyro? Is he still racing?

Cigar, Citation, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky got to 16 consecutive victories before losing. I don't know what is so magical about 16. But I do know this. None of them would have wanted any part of the mare owned and bred by Joe Allen, trained by Joel Marr, and ridden in every start by C.D. Madeira.