01/27/2006 12:00AM

Adena closes in on breeders' mark

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Frank Stronach's Adena Springs is closing in on a record. Since the Eclipse Award for breeder was inaugurated in 1971, only one breeder or farm has won the coveted trophy four times. That distinction belongs to Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms.

Now Adena Springs has taken the top honor three times, putting it in elite company.

Adena has achieved its status by producing both numbers and quality, a combination that is difficult to beat in year-end statistics. Through Nov. 28, when ballots began wending their way to voters, Adena and its occasional partners were North America's leading breeder by purse earnings with $11,912,821, and the third-leading breeder by number of wins with 423.

In the end, Adena won its third Eclipse in a landslide, taking 129 votes to Edward P. Evans's 53. The award capped a double for Stronach, who also took the 2005 Sovereign Award as Canada's leading breeder in 2005.

Eclipse Award voters typically honor class as well as earnings in a breeding program, and Adena fit the bill there, too, with 19 stakes winners. Foremost among those was the 2004 Horse of the Year, Ghostzapper. He set foot on the racetrack just once in 2005, but his performance in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap was so dominant that some speculated he might take the Horse of the Year crown again off that start alone. He did not; Breeders' Cup Classic winner Saint Liam, bred by Evans, did that. But Ghostzapper's brief reappearance at age 5 served as a dramatic reminder that Stronach's homebreeding program, in particular, is producing some outstanding athletes. The farm's other Grade 1 winner in 2005, Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash victor I'm the Tiger, was also a homebred. So was Spun Sugar, who won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and placed in three of North America's most prestigious 3-year-old filly events, the Alabama, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks.

The best runners Adena bred, like those named above, also raced for Stronach last year. But stakes winners in other owners' stables also carried the Adena flag in 2005. Bear's Kid and Leprechaun Kid, a former claiming horse, both won

Grade 2 races on turf last year, adding valuable purse money and graded black type to Adena's totals for the season.

Stronach, born in Austria and now living primarily in Canada, is the founder of the international automotive parts company Magna International and of Magna Entertainment, which owns Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Lone Star Park, Portland Meadows, Thistledown, Great Lakes Downs, and Remington Park. Stronach, 73, founded Adena Springs Kentucky in 1989 on 640 acres. The farm expanded to cover about 1,800 acres in central Kentucky, and Stronach opened divisions in Ontario, Canada, and Ocala, Fla. In 2005, he sold the original Kentucky parcel to breeding newcomer Jess Jackson. With several hundred broodmares and such stallions as Awesome Again (and now that sire's son, Ghostzapper) in his program, Stronach appears likely to equal Juddmonte's four-Eclipse record in the coming years.