05/02/2003 12:00AM

Another Mina pipe dream comes true


Tom Mina, an owner and breeder of New York-breds for many years, became more involved in the business when he bought a New York farm in February 2002.

Mina purchased 15 acres of land in Saratoga Springs and brought the mares he owned to the farm, which features an 18-stall barn and several paddocks. The property, which Mina named Five Oaks Farm for the five oak trees on the land, is located about a mile from downtown Saratoga and formerly housed polo horses.

Mina, 60, is currently building a 4,000-square foot house on the farm and plans on living there for several months out of the year when he retires from his plumbing business. Mina owns a New York City-based wholesale plumbing business.

"I've always dreamed about sitting on the porch with my coffee, watching these foals running around," Mina said. "There aren't too many things more relaxing than horses."

A native of Queens, N.Y., Mina became involved in racing in 1987 when he claimed his first horse. Mina later decided to take it one step further and began buying young horses at sales to race.

Mina might not have known it then, but he took the first step to becoming a farm owner in 1996 when he bought Liz Ficken, whom he calls his foundation mare. A yearling at the time, Liz Ficken, who is named for Mina's daughter, was bought for $8,500 at an estate dispersal sale held at Ocala Stud Farm in Florida.

Liz Ficken, a daughter of Gallant Prospector, won two races for Mina before she was retired.

Her second foal, a Storm Creek colt, was Mina's first big score as a breeder and a seller.

Because the New York-bred colt had the looks and a solid pedigree - Liz Ficken is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Exogenous - Mina entered him in last year's Fasig-Tipton preferred sale of yearlings at Saratoga.

Mina admitted he was surprised when Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck, who sold the Storm Creek colt through their consignment, told him to put a $75,000 reserve on the horse.

Mina was even more surprised when Liz Ficken's yearling was bought by Jim Crupi's New Castle Farm for $115,000.

"I thought, 'Whoa, there is more to this [business] than I thought,'" Mina said. "It was starting to get interesting."

At the same sale, another yearling out of one of Mina's broodmares, Karusha, sold for $25,000.

In addition to Liz Ficken and Karusha, who is named for Mina's girlfriend, Karen, the other broodmares owned by Mina are Basquinginsunshine, Montjac, and Honor Lass.

With the exception of Honor Lass, who has been bred to Maria's Mon this year, the other mares are all going to New York stallions standing at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbred Stallions.

Liz Ficken, who recently gave birth to a Songandaprayer colt, is booked to Regal Classic. Montjac, who is carrying a Delaware Township foal, will be bred to Judge T C. Karusha will be covered by McMahon's first-year sire Wheelaway, and Basquinginsunshine was bred to Western Borders.

There were some tense moments for Mina and his nephew, Nick, who is the farm manager at Five Oaks Farm, when Liz Ficken gave birth to the farm's first foal last month.

The Songandaprayer colt was turned backward in the birth canal and there was concern that mother and son wouldn't pull through the ordeal.

"The vet was able to save both," Mina said. "I tell you when I got to the barn and saw them in the stall, my eyes welled up. I was overwhelmed."

Mina also has action at the racetrack. He has four horses in training with Joe Aquilino at Aqueduct, including one of last year's top 3-year-old New York-breds, No Parole.

Mina purchased No Parole for $20,000 at Fasig-Tipton's preferred August yearling sale in 2000. Last year, the Lit de Justice colt earned $275,375, with much of his earnings coming from in-the-money finishes in stakes. Besides winning the Mike Lee at Belmont Park and picking up checks in a few other restricted stakes, No Parole finished second in the Grade 2 Pegasus at The Meadowlands and was third in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Discovery.

Mina said he hopes to win a graded stakes with No Parole this year because he would like to become involved in another facet of the business.

"I guess it's another one of my Walter Mitty dreams," Mina said with a laugh. "I would love to stand No Parole somewhere and breed my mares to him. You know, selling pipes to contractors is okay, but it's not as much fun as horses."