07/16/2002 11:00PM

When juveniles hit Saratoga, traits of sires are key factors

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LAS VEGAS - The annual onslaught of 2-year-olds is about to invade Saratoga, and handicappers will be faced with the daunting task of playing these baby races, many of which will undoubtedly be part of a pick three or pick six. Betting first-time starters is always tricky, and adding to the confusion at this meet is that many are from their sire's first crop.

Maiden races at Saratoga can be divided into three categories. In the first half of the meet, most juvenile races will be contested at five to six furlongs on the dirt. After that, some maiden races will be run at seven furlongs. A small percentage of baby races will be carded on the turf, providing the biggest fields and best value.

At five and 5 1/2 furlongs, speed rules, and freshman sires by an extraordinary speed influence, Gone West, are on fire this year. Juveniles by Elusive Quality, Grand Slam, Double Honor, Western Fame, and Rodeo - all sons of Gone West - are winning impressively across the country, and their runners should be played with confidence at sprint distances.

Here is a list of this year's freshman speed sires:

Acceptable (Capote). By champion 2-year-old Capote, he had high speed at 2, winning a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga. He finished second to Boston Harbor (another son of Capote) by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Arch (Kris S.). Although by a stamina influence, he gets an abundance of speed from his dam (Aurora) and damsire (Danzig), and already has an impressive first-out winner.

Banker's Gold (Forty Niner). Essentially a miler, he should get runners with speed, especially if they are out of mares by speed influences, such as Valid Appeal or Phone Trick.

Confide (Phone Trick). By a renowned speed influence, he was strictly a sprinter, and his offspring will be highly effective up to six furlongs.

Coronado's Quest (Forty Niner). This high-class stakes winner was bred to mostly high-quality mares, and his 2-year-olds should have speed and be even better as they mature.

Dance Brightly (Mr. Prospector). A full brother to back-to-back Queen's Plate winners Dancethruthedawn and Scatter the Gold, he is out of champion Dance Smartly. His sire line is well-known for speed.

Diligence (Miswaki). He won his debut at Saratoga by 11 lengths, and his runners should have good speed on fast and wet tracks.

Distorted Humor (Forty Niner). Forty Niner was a champion at 2 and his sons End Sweep, Gold Fever, Tactical Advantage, Twining, and Roar are speed influences. Distorted Humor has three winners, including a stakes winner, Awesome Humor.

Double Honor (Gone West). Winner of the Sapling Stakes, he has three winners from five starters, and his 2-year-olds will light up the board at Saratoga.

Elusive Quality (Gone West). He set a world record for a mile on turf at Belmont Park and also set a track record for seven furlongs on the dirt at Gulfstream Park. His four juvenile winners include stakes winners Adopted Daughter and Frankiefourfingers.

Favorite Trick (Phone Trick). Like the offspring of Confide, another son of Phone Trick, runners by Favorite Trick, champion 2-year-old and Horse of the Year, should be best sprinting.

Formal Gold (Black Tie Affair). He had blazing speed and the ability to carry it a distance. His runners should be potent on wet tracks.

Grand Slam (Gone West). He may end up this year's leading freshman sire. His runners are already showing high speed and winning on dirt and turf, and they will also be very effective on wet tracks.

Indian Charlie (In Excess). By a sensational speed influence, he won the Santa Anita Derby and won his only race at 2 by 12 lengths at Del Mar at 5 1/2 furlongs. He has three winners from nine runners.

Northern Afleet (Afleet). He won a maiden race at Del Mar at 2 and was second in the Balboa Stakes to Cobra King. He has two winners from six runners.

Ordway (Salt Lake). Winner of the Champagne, he won a maiden race at Saratoga and finished second to Smoke Glacken in the Hopeful. Sire line is synonymous with speed.

Rodeo (Gone West). Won his first start at 2 by 15 1/2 lengths, and has one winner from only two starters. Because he is based in New York, his runners should be in statebred maiden races. Should be a versatile stallion, getting winners on dirt, wet tracks, and especially on turf.

Stormy Atlantic (Storm Cat). Sons of Storm Cat (Storm Boot, Storm Creek, Hennessy, Forest Wildcat) are predominantly speed influences.

Subordination (Mt. Livermore). By a speed influence, he has two winners from as many runners, and his offspring are playable on all surfaces.

Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat). Won the King's Bishop over this surface at 3, and his runners have shown early promise. Watch for his offspring (and those of all sons of Storm Cat, for that matter) if they show up on turf.

Western Fame (Gone West). Began his career in Europe but developed into stakes-winning sprinter in the U.S. at ages 5 and 6. His runners are showing good speed.