Updated on 09/15/2011 1:21PM

Well above average

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Banks Hill earned an exceptional 112 Beyer Speed Figure in the Filly and Mare Turf.

COLUMBIA, Md. - Given the depth and quality of this year's fields, Breeders' Cup 2001 promised to be among the most exciting in history. And the Beyer Speed Figures from last Saturday's races prove that the promise was indeed fulfilled.

Distaff: This was the one big disappointment. The Beyer Figure of 102 for Unbridled Elaine was by far the lowest in the past 10 years, and well below the 109 average for this race.

Juvenile Fillies: Tempera's winning figure of 107 was impressive. The average for this race over the past decade is a mere 94.6, and only once before did a winner break the 100 barrier - Silverbulletday's 101 in 1998.

Mile: Val Royal's 114 equaled the recent record for the Mile and surpassed the average of 111.7 for this race.

Sprint: Squirtle Squirt ran a 119, second only to Artax's 124 in 1999 and far above the 112.9 average.

Filly and Mare Turf: The first two runnings of this race earned 105 Beyers. Banks Hill crushed her competitors with a huge 112.

Juvenile: Johannesburg's 99 fell right on the recent average of 98.3. No horse has run higher than 103.

Turf: Fantastic Light won with a 117, well above the 112.2 average and second only to superstar Daylami's 118 in 1999.

Classic: Last year, Tiznow and Giant's Causeway dueled to a 116. This year, Tiznow outdueled Sakhee in a 117. That's right around the average of 116.1. In the last 10 years, only Skip Away has run as high as 120.

Among the most surprising performances:

* The sharp efforts of Tiznow, Albert the Great, and Macho Uno, all of whom had run poorly in their previous races.

* The failure of England's Legend, Starine, or Lailani to make an impact on the Filly and Mare Turf.

* The survival of nearly all the big speed horses in the Sprint, when everyone expected the race to set up for closers.

* The demise of seemingly solid favorites Flute and Officer (hindered by tough rail trips), and You, who had no apparent excuse.

Among the winners, Val Royal's performance stood out. He ran a big Beyer Figure with an awesome run through the stretch when no one else was gaining any ground at all. Among the second-place finishers, the 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat turned in another outstanding effort, outrunning a pack of male speedballs and hanging on gamely to lose by only a half-length. And Milan, after breaking slowly and trailing way back, moved wide and closed fast to fall only three-quarters of a length short of the great Fantastic Light, who had enjoyed a perfect trip.

But after all the pageantry and the seemingly inevitable Belmont accident (this one involving the filly Exogenous), I came away with two strong impressions which might be worth something in 2002.

Bella Bellucci: She broke a length or two behind the field, was rushed down the backstretch, went on to take the lead into a brisk wind and on a dead inside, managed to angle off the rail at the top of the stretch, and then tired in the late stages to lose by five lengths. And the 2-year-old fillies ran a huge figure of 107. In a rematch with this same field, you have to love her chances.

Siphonic: This 2-year-old colt broke a step slow, moved up to chase the pace along the rail, was pocketed on the inside, and was never able to get away from the deeper going. He lost by only 2 1/2 lengths. I don't know if he can go 1 1/4 miles, but he might be worth a few dollars in the Derby future book.

Of course, all these impressions were colored by the prevailing track conditions at Belmont Park. After the first two non-Breeders' Cup races, I could see the all-too-familiar outlines of a typical Belmont dead rail. And with a strong, cold wind in the faces of the front-runners down the long Belmont backstretch, you could see that the inside speed horses were going to be at a big disadvantage. Only in the Sprint, with the effect of the wind reduced to only a quarter-mile's worth, did speed do well - and none of them were right on the rail. Outside stalkers and late runners in the five and six paths were the order of the day.

Perhaps the prevailing bias was more a function of strong wind than a dead rail. Most likely it was some unfathomable combination of the two.

But, whatever the case, it should make the Breeders' Cup officials think twice about running these championship races at Belmont Park. A level playing field should be the goal in these events. Unfortunately, Belmont hasn't been able to guarantee honest, unbiased track conditions. Dead rails are endemic at Belmont - and seemingly uncontrollable.

And then there's the roulette with the weather in late October in New York. And the troublesome start midway on the turn for one of the world's biggest races. Add it all up and the conclusion is unavoidable: No more Breeders' Cups at Belmont.