12/10/2004 12:00AM

Aileen's Countess couple's golden goose


Selling the topper at this past week's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale is one of many successes that John and Aileen Ferguson have experienced during their 25 years in the horse business.

Even with modest horse numbers over the years, the Fergusons continue to reach goals they set - with a six-figure sales horse being the most recent.

The Fergusons' weanling colt by Malibu Moon out of their homebred stakes-winning mare Aileen's Countess brought $160,000, the second-highest price ever realized for a sales weanling in Maryland, next to a $240,000 Boston Harbor colt sold in 1999. Josham Farms, agent, signed the ticket for the colt, consigned by Bill Reightler.

"He was an exceptional individual," said Ferguson. "We were thinking he would bring between $50,000 to $100,000, but people came from everywhere to look at him."

Weanlings from the fourth crop of the highly popular Malibu Moon did exceptionally well across the board at the December sale, as four sold for a total of $314,000, an average of $78,500, to make the son of A.P. Indy the leading sire of the sale.

Ferguson has always held Malibu Moon in high regard, breeding his only two broodmares to the stallion and encouraging friends to do the same.

"He has an aura about him," Ferguson said of Malibu Moon. "He's a special horse."

Malibu Moon launched his stud career at Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., before moving to Castleton Lyons in Kentucky for the 2004 season.

The Fergusons' star weanling traces to one of the very first mares the couple purchased, in the late 1970's. John Ferguson, a former owner-operator of a gas station with no previous hands-on experience with racehorses, made a career change when he and Aileen bought four broodmares and shares in the consistent stallion John Alden in 1979. The following year, the couple moved onto 200-acre Hargett Farms in Boyds, Md. Located in upper Montgomery County, the farm had been owned by John Ferguson's family since the 1930's, and was given to the Fergusons by John's uncle, Harold Hargett. By 1985, Ferguson had his trainer's license and based himself at Bowie.

A daughter of Rollicking named Tappered Point became the foundation of the Fergusons' operation. One of the original mares purchased by the Fergusons, Tappered Point produced four foals (three by John Alden), and all were winners. Her top runner was the $50,300-earner Aileen's Alden.

Now 20, Aileen's Alden has had a checkered past as a broodmare, producing only three foals from 1992 to 2000. However, her first offspring, Aileen's Countess, provided another milestone for the Fergusons. Aileen's Countess (by Dancing Count) won 10 races and placed in 11 others from 31 starts, earning $244,955. She became the Fergusons' first stakes winner when she captured the Snow Goose Handicap at Laurel in March 1997.

Aileen's Countess and the Fergusons' only other mare, Flash Number Two, a multiple stakes-placed runner of $269,103 claimed early in her career by Ferguson, have been stablemates since their days at the track. Flash Number Two also has a Malibu Moon foal, a 3-year-old filly named Malibu Moonbeam, who finished second last winter in her only start before being seriously injured in a training accident. She has since recovered and is back in training with Ferguson.

The Fergusons sold two other foals out of Aileen's Countess, both Allen's Prospect colts, as yearlings. They got $45,000 for the 2001 colt, now named Buffalo Run, who was pinhooked and resold for $110,000 as a 2-year-old. When Buffalo Run appeared in claiming races this year, Ferguson took him back and has him at Bowie. The 2002 colt, sold for $20,000 as a yearling, reappeared in the 2-year-old sales this spring, bringing $60,000, and is currently in training in Florida.

The Fergusons found a home for Aileen's Alden with Val Kilby, who works for Country Life Farm, and this past May, Aileen's Alden produced her first foal since 2000, a filly by Allen's Prospect. Ferguson is thrilled with the thought of another filly in the family and of Kilby's work with Aileen's Alden.

"It helps all of us if Aileen's Alden can have more foals," he said.

Aileen's Countess, currently not in foal, will be bred to Tapit in the spring.