10/07/2002 11:00PM

Which juveniles will handle nine furlongs?


LAS VEGAS - After six important final prep races for 2-year-old colts and fillies last weekend, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies have strong favorites in Sky Mesa and Storm Flag Flying, but there are some runners with late-maturing pedigrees who will appreciate this year's longer distance of 1 1/8 miles.

Juvenile Colts

Undefeated Sky Mesa, who won the Hopeful Stakes in only his second start after winning his maiden race at Saratoga, won the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland with alarming ease despite showing his immaturity. From the second crop of Pulpit (A.P. Indy) and out of the stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Caress, Sky Mesa has the look of a colt with unlimited potential.

The dam and her female family are the keys to racing class, and the high quality of Sky Mesa's family is indisputable. His dam is a full sister to stakes winners Bernstein and Country Cat, and is also a half-sister to Emmaus, the dam of Wiseman's Ferry. Sky Mesa's fourth dam, Finance, is a half-sister to the great Buckpasser. Distance should pose no problem for Sky Mesa.

Lone Star Sky (Conquistador Cielo) finished a game but unthreatening second to Sky Mesa, and his chances at the longer Juvenile distance appear slim.

The Champagne Stakes unveiled a rising star in Toccet, who is from the first crop of Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again. Awesome Again is also the sire of Echeverria, runner-up in the Ellis Park Juvenile. Toccet's pedigree is rife with turf influences, starting with Awesome Again (Deputy Minister), damsire Cozzene, and second damsire Trepan, who is out of a half-sister to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino. But Toccet, like his sire, has shown an affinity for dirt, and he is well equipped to get 1 1/8 miles.

Icecoldbeeratreds (In Excess) ran a big race to finish second in the one-turn Champagne, but would only be a pace factor going an extra furlong and around two turns at Arlington.

Third-place finisher Erinsouthernman, from the second crop of 1994 Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Eltish, really impressed in just his second start. Erinsouthernman ran to his fast workouts, and was going well at the finish. This is a colt who should only get better with time and distance. His second dam is a half-sister to the blue hen producer Sultry Sun, the dam of major stakes winners Solar Splendor, Sultry Song, and Strategic Mission.

The disappointments in the Champagne were favorite Pretty Wild (Wild Again) and Outer Reef (Pulpit). Pretty Wild made a move but flattened out, while Outer Reef was always outrun. Both colts have too much talent to be completely dismissed off one race, and if they don't show up in the Juvenile, they may still be a force in late-season races such as the Laurel Futurity or Remsen Stakes.

As for the Norfolk Stakes, Bob Baffert's pair, Kafwain (Cherokee Run) and Bull Market (Holy Bull), put on a good show over the fast Santa Anita surface, but they will not be a factor at 1 1/8 miles over a different surface. By speed influences, they are not expected to be as good beyond 1 1/16 miles. Baffert's best 2-year-old is Kentucky Cup Juvenile winner Vindication (Seattle Slew).

But Listen Indy (A.P. Indy), who finished third in the Norfolk, is the colt who should benefit most by more distance. Listen Indy is reminiscent of Anees (Unbridled). Anees could not match the speed of Dixie Union and Forest Camp in shorter races (and also finished third in the Norfolk), but turned the tables in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Listen Indy's third dam is a three-quarter sister to Storm Bird and with A.P. Indy on top and Manila on the bottom, Listen Indy is bred to relish nine furlongs and much more.

Juvenile Fillies

Storm Flag Flying (Storm Cat) followed her Matron victory with a two-length score in the Frizette Stakes, and although the margin of victory wasn't as big, she was facing a stronger opponent in Santa Catarina (Unbridled). Both fillies are strongly bred to be even better at 3 at longer distances. Storm Flag Flying gets high class from her famous dam (My Flag) and granddam (Personal Ensign), and a great deal of stamina from her damsire, Easy Goer. Santa Catarina, by Unbridled, is from a female family full of champions and stakes winners. European Horse of the Year Zilzal, and French champions Polish Precedent and Culture Vulture come from this illustrious line of Lady Be Good.

Composure, who won the Oak Leaf Stakes, is another filly who will love 1 1/8 miles and be a force at 3. By freshman sire Touch Gold, winner of the Belmont Stakes, Composure gets additional stamina from damsire Alleged, two-time winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Westerly Breeze, winner of the Alcibiades Stakes, is a half-sister to Jacksonport, by speed influence Gone West, but will be less effective at 1 1/8 miles. Favored Atlantic Ocean (Stormy Atlantic), who won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, faded badly after showing early speed and although she may not have liked the Keeneland surface, appears overmatched against Storm Flag Flying and Santa Catarina.