COMMENTARY : Stevens Should Nose Out Bailey

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With less than four weeks remaining in 1995, certain horses are slam dunks for Eclipse Awards.

Cigar, who hasn't lost in 14 months, is a cinch to be named top older male and horse of the year. Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Thunder Gulch will be named top 3-year-old, and his stablemate in the Wayne Lukas barn, Serena's Song, will be honored as the top 3-year-old filly.

Possibly Perfect's selection as the top female turf horse is equally obvious, and so to, at least in the opinion of one observer, is the choice of Gary Stevens as top jockey.

Jerry Bailey has set a record with more than $16 million in earnings and is certainly deserving, but Stevens has had a better year.

Remove Cigar and his 10 consecutive victories, and Bailey's ledger isn't quite as impressive.

Stevens, also seeking his first Eclipse, was the regular rider for Thunder Gulch and Serena's Song and also for two other possible Eclipse winners--Golden Attraction and Hennessy. He also won the Santa Anita Derby with Larry The Legend, and, perhaps, most remarkably, the Santa Anita Handicap with Urgent Request. Since that day, Urgent Request has had trouble finishing his races, let alone winning any of them.

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Here are one reporter's other Eclipse choices:

2-year-old--Maria's Mon. He didn't run in the Breeders' Cup because of injury, but he won the Champagne and Futurity at Belmont Park in a span of three weeks, defeating Unbridled's Song and Hennessy in the former, and they came back to run 1-2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

2-year-old filly--Golden Attraction. She lost the big dance--the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies--on a track she didn't care for, but still wound up with six victories in eight starts.

Older female--Inside Information. The 4-year-old Private Account filly came through with the most one-sided victory in Breeders' Cup history in the Distaff, capping a year in which she won seven of eight.

Male turf horse--Northern Spur. He came from nowhere to win the Oak Tree Invitational, then a grueling Breeders' Cup Turf in which he outbattled Freedom Cry over an extremely soggy turf course.

Sprinter--Not Surprising. He finished with eight victories in 13 starts, including four graded stakes scores.

Trainer--Wayne Lukas. This is a close call between Lukas and Bill Mott, but much of Mott's power has been provided by Cigar.

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