05/10/2007 11:00PM

Another shrewd claim for Leatherbury


Legendary Maryland trainer King T. Leatherbury doesn't have a starter in this year's Preakness, but he could still come away with a big victory Saturday at Pimlico.

Heart Throbbin', the latest of many astute claims Leatherbury has made during nearly a half-century in the business, is expected to contest the Grade 3, $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico. Heart Throbbin' has won two stakes this year.

"He's been training well," said Leatherbury. "But of course he'll be facing much tougher horses."

Heart Throbbin' - named for his striking good looks - joined Leatherbury's stable after his only start for a claiming price. Leatherbury took him for $40,000 last September at Laurel.

Before that, he raced for his breeders, Tom and Chris Bowman and Dickie Small, who have also gained no small measure of fame as Maryland horse people. The Bowmans were Maryland's breeder of the year in 2006 for the second year in a row (and third time overall). Small, who trained Heart Throbbin' to race in his own name, trained three of the top 10 horses on the all-time Maryland-bred money-earners list.

"They were surprised when he got claimed," said the Bowmans' daughter Becky Davis, who helped raise Heart Throbbin' at her family's Dance Forth Farm in Chestertown and Roland Farm in Chesapeake City.

Heart Throbbin' had been an "outstanding foal," said Davis, explaining that he wasn't offered at auction as a yearling because his sire, Formal Gold, does not have strong commercial appeal.

Validating the breeders' hopes, Heart Throbbin' won at first asking, in May of his 2-year-old season at Pimlico. But in five additional starts for them he didn't make it back to the winner's circle.

Leatherbury is as surprised as anyone by the turnaround.

Determining that Heart Throbbin' is "not the most robust" horse, Leatherbury has given him generous amounts of time between races.

Heart Throbbin' won his first start for Leatherbury, in allowance company at Laurel in October, and has finished out of the money only once since then, while competing exclusively in stakes.

He met up with the future Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun in the Port Penn Stakes at Delaware Park in November. While no match for that rival, Heart Throbbin' prompted the pace and finished second.

On New Year's Day, Heart Throbbin' drew off to victory in the Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel, launching a 3-year-old campaign that has included a third-place finish in the Horatius Stakes in March and a victory in the Maryland Stallion Station Stakes on April 21 at Pimlico.

In a dozen lifetime starts, Heart Throbbin' has earned $164,000. His return on investment for Leatherbury is $124,320.

Still, the Bowmans and Small can take consolation from the breeder's bonuses coming their way - and from the numerous relatives of Heart Throbbin' remaining on the farm and racetrack.

The dam of Heart Throbbin', She Whistled (by Two Punch), died while attempting to deliver a foal by Lion Hearted in 2006. The foal was also lost. Heart Throbbin' was the second and final foal for She Whistled, whom the Bowmans also bred and owned in partnership with Small.

But the 18-year-old granddam of Heart Throbbin', Kimonina (by Spectacular Bid), remains an active member of the broodmare band at Dance Forth. She delivered a Smarty Jones filly on May 4.

Kimonina is the dam of two stakes winners, including Shashobegon, a 1995 daughter of Broad Brush whom Small trained to win or place in 16 stakes. She eraned $531,904. Shashobegon, also residing at at Dance Forth, had a Smarty Jones filly this year and was bred back to Smarty Jones.