06/13/2008 12:00AM

$20K mare quickly took on golden look


On Saturday afternoon, June 7, Peter Rosbeck was weeding in his garden on Martha's Vineyard, an island off Cape Cod, Mass.

"I was sweaty and covered with garden crud," he said.

Rosbeck recalls that he looked at his watch and noted that it was almost post time for the Belmont Stakes. So he set sail for the family TV room.

"My wife, Karen, took one look at me and asked where I thought I was going," he said.

Rosbeck was still damp and spattered with garden debris. He hastily explained to his wife that they owned the dam of one of the Belmont starters and he wanted to see what's what.

The Rosbecks watched as Da' Tara took the lead and continued in front down the backside.

"I said to Karen that if he keeps on going that way Da' Tara could get a piece of it and give our mare Torchera some Grade 1 black type," Rosbeck said. "The further they went, the more excited I got. Just for an instant when some horses closed the gap, I thought he might be done, but he just kept on going."

Peter Rosbeck is the owner of Hidden Point Farm in Ocala, Fla. He is a real estate developer who owns highly prized acreage on Martha's Vineyard. In the winter of 2006, at the Keeneland January sale, Rosbeck bought a stakes-placed 11-year-old producer named Torchera for $20,000. A Pirate's Bounty mare, she was in foal to the millionaire racehorse Deputy Commander. Torchera foaled a chestnut colt the following May. In August of 2006, three months after Torchera foaled her colt for the Rosbecks, her 2005 foal, a dark bay or brown colt by Tiznow, was sold at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale for $175,000.

"When I read that," said Rosbeck, "I said to myself, I've got a helluva potential upside in this mare."

Last Saturday it got even better.

The mare's unnamed colt is now a half-brother to a classic winner, and he will be selling this Tuesday as Hip No. 121 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales auction of 2-year-olds in training.

Distraction turned serious

Rosbeck can be an emotional man. He's had his moments - good times and bad. It was a terrible moment, more than 30 years ago, when news came from Vietnam that his brother had been killed in action.

"I was devastated," he said.

He felt that he needed some distraction from his sibling memories. On whim, chance, whatever, he found himself at a racetrack - Suffolk Downs. At that East Boston track, he struck up a casual conversation with one of New England's legendary trainers, John "Jackpot" Kelly. Kelly assured him that there was nothing like racing horses to sooth whatever ails you.

Within a month of their meeting, Kelly had bought Rosbeck a gelding at a Belmont paddock sale of horses in training.

"I paid $2,500 for Iron Star; he hadn't raced in a year and obviously had troubles, but what did I know?" Rosbeck said.

Kelly trained Iron Star for Rosbeck, and three weeks later the horse won at Suffolk Downs for $3,500 and was claimed. "I thought, 'What an easy game this is!' " said Rosbeck.

Rosbeck's interest in racing grew, and he subsequently bought Florida land and developed Hidden Point Farm. For some time, though, he sensed that the racing industry was headed for trouble and that the breeding industry would soon follow

"Fifteen years ago, I got up at the annual Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association's annual October meeting," he said. "I told them that I just got back from Las Vegas, where I attended seminars on the future of gambling. I told the membership that if Florida does not get on the ball and meet the coming challenges of Indian and casino gambling competition, Florida will cease to become a viable breeding market and eventually become mainly a place to train and sell young horses. Few paid attention, and here we are, and trust me, we're on the ropes. More and more of my neighbors are either getting out of the business or moving their mares to other states."

Rosbeck got a jolt in May. His stallion Third Wonder, among the leading third-crop sires in North America, died.

"Hidden Point Farm is not commercial in the sense that we're big producers for the yearling or 2-year-old markets," Rosbeck said. "We stand a few stallions, and we try and breed replacements for our racing stable, but standing stallions is getting too tough for a moderate breeder in Florida. You talk to friends and colleagues and try to get some support for your stallions, and they tell you that they are breeding in Kentucky or Pennsylvania.

Da' Tara's kid brother, who is selling at the Ocala sale on Tuesday, is a well-developed chestnut colt of approximately 16-2 hands. He has a white star on his auburn forehead and a white sock behind. The colt's preparation for the auction is not geared to blazing a furlong or a quarter-mile.

"I breed and raise horses, not jackrabbits," said Rosbeck. "He is in the sale along with six other Hidden Point Farm 2-year-olds because I want to take time off, and the OBS June sale is timely.

"You know what's really unusual about this year's Belmont? It's this: Torchera, my mare, is the dam of Da' Tara, and [she and] Unbridled Girl, the dam of Denis of Cork, are closely related. . . . How's that for an Ocala-Belmont Stakes exacta?"