10/25/2001 11:00PM

You snuck up on almost everyone


ELMONT, N.Y. - Who knew?

Dolphus Morrison didn't. Neither did Hal Wiggins. Just about everyone who attended the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale was in the dark. The same can be said for the bettors who wagered on the fourth race at Churchill Downs on June 1.

And doesn't Michael Divitto wish he had an inkling?

Until this summer, virtually nobody knew how good You would be.

We know now.

You heads into Saturday's $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park as one of the strongest favorites on the World Thoroughbred Championships card. Morrison, the breeder and former owner of You, will head to Birmingham Race Course in Alabama to watch the races via simulcast.

It was Morrison's idea to match his nondescript mare Our Dani - a winner of two races and $12,000 in 20 starts - with the multiple graded stakes-winning stallion You and I. It was also his - and trainer Hal Wiggins's - idea to accept $150,000 from Bobby Frankel, on behalf of Edmund Gann, for You following her second race.

"I have some regrets," said Morrison, 67, and the president of SMI Steel Inc. in Birmingham, Ala. "Based on the facts I had at the time I'd do again what I did."

One could hardly blame Morrison for taking the $150,000. After all, he tried to sell You as a yearling, but bought her back for $9,000 after she barely drew a bid at the Keeneland sale.

Morrison sent You to Clover Leaf Farm in Florida to be taught how to be a racehorse. Though the reports of her training were favorable, Morrison and Wiggins decided to run her in a maiden claiming race first time out at Churchill. The claiming price was $50,000; the purse, $23,000.

"We just thought with her breeding we could probably get away with it," said Wiggins, meaning he didn't think anyone would claim the filly. "She didn't have fabulous [workout] times and we were trying to win a race."

You won by 4 3/4 lengths, returning $21.40 and earning $14,260 in purse money. Wiggins said he didn't bet, "but some of my friends took advantage," he said.

Of the eight fillies in the race, the only one that was claimed was Premier Account, by Divitto and trainer Rick Hiles. Premier Account did not run again until Oct. 13, when she finished fourth in a maiden special weight race at Calder.

Wiggins, who will run Chorwon in the Breeders' Cup Turf, decided to run You back on June 20 in an allowance race for juvenile fillies who had not won two races. In the race was a Michigan-bred filly named Cashier's Dream, who also had won for maiden $50,000 first time out. Cashier's Dream beat You by three lengths. The final time of 1:03.84 in the mud was pretty good.

Shortly after that race, Team Valor purchased Cashier's Dream and Gann bought You. On July 8, Cashier's Dream won the Churchill Downs Debutante, setting a track record in the process.

"I probably underestimated Cashier's Dream," Wiggins said, explaining his part in the sale.

Cashier's Dream and You met again in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga, with You running down Cashier's Dream by a neck in a stakes record 1:15.16. Cashier's Dream came back to win the Grade 1 Spinaway. You came back to beat Cashier's Dream in the Grade 1 Frizette, stamping herself as the Breeders' Cup favorite.

"I'm disappointed, but realistically if we kept that filly we would have run her in the Debutante where we would have run second to Cashier's Dream," Morrison said. "Then we would have won the Debutante at Ellis Park and then the Arlington-Washington Lassie. I don't even know if we would have gone onto the Breeders' Cup with her. I'm not unhappy, I'm looking forward to her winning Saturday."

As the breeder of You, Morrison would be entitled to a 5 percent breeder award should she win. That would translate to $28,600.

"That's okay," Morrison said. "That'd buy a little hay for the other ones I got."

In addition to selling You, Morrison sold her half-brother, by Candy Stripes, for $1,500 last November. He also donated You's dam, Our Dani, to the equine program at Louisiana Tech. At least, he got a $10,000 tax write off for that.

"I'm not unhappy about that at all, other than somebody will make a couple of hundred-thousand dollars if they buy her," Morrison said of Our Dani. "She is going to be auctioned, I believe. The last I heard from the people at Louisiana Tech was that she would be auctioned. I said if it could put money in your program, do it."

Morrison has spent the last several years downsizing his operation. He is down to eight horses in training and four broodmares. One of his runners is Lord Rhythm, a 2-year-old daughter of Rhythm, who won her first two starts before running third in the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland.

"She needs to go a route of ground," Morrison said. "She's a pretty nice little filly."

And Morrison intends on keeping this one.