10/28/2004 11:00PM

Artic Bleu broodmare title contender


Voting for the Sovereign Awards for Canada's champions will begin in less than four weeks, and the family surrounding 17-year-old Artic Bleu is hoping their mare will get recognition for outstanding broodmare.

Artic Bleu's owner, Margaret Squires, has campaigned three stakes winners out of Artic Bleu, including two this season - Norfolk Knight and Millfleet.

The outstanding broodmare award is for a mare who has produced a stakes winner in the current year as well as in a previous year.

Artic Bleu's main competition for the award will come from Annsan, the dam of Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes winner A Bit O'Gold and stakes winner Arco's Gold.

Squires met her longtime trainer, Hugo Dittfach, a former jockey at Woodbine, when she moved to Georgetown, Ontario, two decades ago.

"He was my neighbor," said Squires. "He sold me my first broodmare, Marathon Margaret. I still have her. She's 22 years old and she still looks like she could race."

Marathon Margaret, or "Maggie," as Squires calls her, produced three foals on the owner's 25-acre Brow-o-the-Hill Farm in Acton, Ontario, but no winners on the track.

In 1995, Squires took Maggie to nearby Wynnwood Farm to breed her to the Deputy Minister stallion Tejabo, but wound up going home with another mare after meeting Wynnwood's owner, Gerry Grguric.

"He talked me into buying Artic Bleu; she was already in foal to Tejabo."

Artic Bleu, a daughter of Bay Meadows Derby winner Nain Bleu from the stakes-placed mare Artic Caster, by Briartic, was a winner who placed six times in 11 starts.

Squires's first foal from the mare was the massive Artic Squire, who went on to win the 1999 Deputy Minster Stakes at Woodbine.

Three years later, Artic Bleu produced her next foal, Norfolk Knight, a son of Ascot Knight who has proven to be one of the best older horses in Canada in 2004.

On Oct. 16, Norfolk Knight and regular rider Jillian Scharfstein led from start to finish in the Grade 3 Durham Cup, defeating millionaire Mobil. It was the eighth win in 24 starts for Norfolk Knight, who has banked an impressive $517,267.

Just four days later, Norfolk Knight's little half-brother Millfleet, by the El Gran Senor stallion Compadre, won the Deputy Minister Stakes, just as Artic Squire did five years ago. Millfleet has earned $150,000 from 2 wins in 10 starts.

"Artic Bleu seems to do well with any kind of stallion," said Squires, who noted that her three stakes winners are similar physically, but not in personality. "Artic Squire is over 17 hands and he's a gentle giant. Norfolk Knight is also a gentle giant, at the farm, but at the track he's all business. Millfleet loves to kick and bite."

Artic Bleu lost her 2004 foal by Regal Discovery this spring, but Squires is hoping to breed the mare to Tejabo next year.

When the Woodbine season ends Dec. 12, Squires, who does all of the farm work herself, will have all of Artic Bleu's offspring back at her farm for a winter's rest.

"They are all pets to me," she said. "I'm getting a whole barnful of them now."