08/06/2002 11:00PM

You still game, but she's slowing down


LAS VEGAS - For You, it was dej? vu all over again.

Last year at Saratoga the Bobby Frankel-trained filly triumphed in a thrilling stretch battle with Cashier's Dream in the Adirondack. And this year in the Test Stakes she survived another stirring duel, this time with the previously undefeated speedball Carson Hollow. On both occasions You showed remarkable courage and determination.

But there's one interesting twist to this story. As a 2-year-old in the Adirondack, You ran a Beyer Speed Figure of legendary proportions - a huge 107 at 6 1/2 furlongs. But in the Test, as a 3-year-old at seven furlongs, she ran only a 101. Her Adirondack figure towered over all recent figures by 2-year-old fillies in Saratoga stakes. But her Test figure was mediocre at best - even if you take into account her less-than-ideal trip.

(The table at right shows where she fits into the recent history of the Test.)

When horses fail to improve their Beyers in the transition from 2 to 3 years old, it's generally not a good sign. It usually indicates either failure to develop, or failure to improve as the distances get longer.

In You's case, part of the reason for her stagnation in terms of speed figures was her less-than-impressive performances around two turns early in the year in California. Even though she won two stakes, one at a mile and one at 1 1/16 miles, she struggled to beat rather weak fields in both events. And in the Kentucky Oaks the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles proved beyond her.

And so You entered the Test without having run a triple-digit Beyer as a 3-year-old. Her relatively weak figure in the Test could serve as a warning sign that she might not have a lot of upside potential as the races get tougher and longer, and she eventually has to meet older fillies and mares. Fortunately for You, the two stars of her generation are either on the shelf - Take Charge Lady - or have had somewhat disappointing recent form - Bella Bellucci - although Bella Bellucci's recent allowance romp could mean she's back on track. But by any measure it is not a deep division. So it's not surprising that You's connections still plan to run her in the Alabama at a distance of 1 1/4 miles - very likely beyond her best distance. But it will be up to others in her generation to step up and expose You's vulnerability.

Bounce and rebound

There were other speed figure lessons to be learned in some of the early stakes at Saratoga. In the Go for Wand, for example, Dancethruthedawn showed a classic bounce-and-rebound pattern to win at odds of 2-1. After running huge back-to-back figures of 110, she understandably threw in a weaker 96 at Churchill Downs in her start before the Go for Wand. As it turns out, she only rebounded to a 98 in the Go for Wand, but it was good enough.

The next day at Saratoga, in an allowance turf race, Unbridled Vice repeated precisely the same pattern. After tough races with back-to-back figures of 93 and 94 after a layoff, she ran a weak 86 at Monmouth. She rebounded to a 94, paying $19.40.

Failure to improve

And then there's the example of Mayakovsky, which returns us to our original theme. Mayakovsky was tremendously impressive in his two starts as a 2-year-old at Saratoga last year. His 104 Beyer, earned while chasing Came Home in the Hopeful in only his second lifetime start, promised a great future. But injuries sidelined him, and in his return to the races he managed a 102 Beyer while loose on the lead and drifting out badly in the Gotham back in March. Then his very poor performance in a weak renewal of the Santa Anita Derby earned him a Beyer of only 89, and he didn't look at all good physically. The race seemed to convince his connections that he should get back to sprinting.

But last Saturday's Amsterdam at Saratoga proved that the problem might not lie solely in Mayakovsky's distance limitations, that there might well be something more fundamental at fault. He ran only an 82 Beyer in a very weak race. (The winner, Listen Here, earned a 98, and the tremendously promising Greatness tossed in a horrible 73.) Mayakovsky has regressed from his powerful figures as a 2-year-old. And that's not usually a good sign.