If there is one feature of racing in the United States that makes sense it is the way young horses are progerssed through races by racing secretaries. The process is known as "condition" or "conditional" races.

Like a prizefighter who starts at the four-round level then advances to the six rounders and on, the secretaries first give maidens a chance against other maidens. Once graduated, the trainer will have the option of entering his horse against "non-winners of two." Having won in that category, the trainer can enter his charge in a race limited to "non-winners of two races other than maiden or claiming."

This progression makes senes. It pits horses of equal quality, and here is the most important feature, at equal stages of development.

Most trainers know this. But few have the good sense or patience to utilize their condition books properly.

Take Saturday's featured W.P. Burch Stakes. Several of the entrants are eligible for non-winners of two races but there they are in with their more seasoned brothers, risking serious setbacks in their development. One horse, Triple Blessed, is a promising maiden.

The nature of conditioning is such that a young horse, say 2 or 3 years old, cannot afford to give away an edge in condition without paying a price. The most glaring example of a possibly great horse passing up his "conditions" before backling the best in his class was the recently retired Soy Numero Uno.

That son of Damascus had won a swiftly run maiden race at Belmont Park by daylight. In his next start he was entered in the Belmont Futurity. His connections were chastised in print for the move. Soy Numero Uno won the Futurity against the best 2 year olds in training, again by day-light. However, he was never the same again. True, he wound up winning a sizable amount of money before he retired, but he never fulfilled his race potential.

Like the old-time fight managers used to say, "they can't hurt us."