09/13/2007 11:00PM

Back in the game and winner's circle

EmailBreeding racehorses can get in your blood. Just ask Elaine and Nick Bassford.

Seven years ago, the Bassfords announced that they would no longer breed horses at their 140-acre Memory Lane Farm in Davidsonville, Md. They consigned all but a few of their sizable band of broodmares and weanlings to auction.

But when the 4-year-old gelding Tommie's Star dashed to victory in the Mister Diz Stakes at Laurel Park last weekend, he gave the Bassfords yet another stakes win by a homebred.

Facing a tough field of older Maryland-breds, Tommie's Star went to the lead, blazed through fractions of 21.96, 43.75, and 55.05 seconds, and held off a strong closing bid by Hands On to score by a nose in course-record time of 1:01.05 for the 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

Trained by Ben Feliciano, Tommie's Star has won or placed in 7 of his 14 career starts, earning $128,850. The Mister Diz was his fourth victory in eight tries on grass.

Like many people who "retire" from the breeding business, the Bassfords gradually restocked their broodmare barn.

"We have cut back on the number of horses we own," said Elaine Bassford, explaining that they now have six broodmares and an equal number of horses in training (five with Feliciano, and another with Ronney Brown at Charles Town).

At one time, the couple had as many as 85 horses of all ages. Their past stars include the 1992 Maryland-bred horse of the year Brilliant Brass (bred in the name of their daughter Marshele Heffron) and the hard-hitting Ameri Valay. Claimed by the Bassfords for $35,000, Ameri Valay (by Maryland sire Carnivalay) developed into a multiple stakes winner. He amassed $742,779 during his career - most of it for the Bassfords - and has gone on to a successful career at stud while still owned by them.

Ameri Valay stands at Shamrock Farm in Woodbine, Md., and counts among his best runners the 2002 Preakness runner-up and Maryland-bred horse of the year, Magic Weisner.

Tommie's Star stands out among their homebreds because he was sired by

another horse whom the Bassfords bred and raced.

Regal American, owned by Marilyn Ketts and standing at her At Last Farm in Aquasco, Md., was represented by his first stakes winner from a limited number of foals when Tommie's Star won the Mister Diz.

Regal American (by Quiet American) is out of Wait for the Lady (by Believe the Queen), whom the Bassfords claimed for $35,000 in May of her 3-year-old season, in 1990. Trainer King T. Leatherbury sent out Wait for the Lady to win five stakes, two in graded company, for the Bassfords.

Wait for the Lady, from a strong black-type family in England, died several years ago while attempting to deliver a foal in Kentucky, reported Bassford.

Regal American, an allowance winner of $55,767, was purchased by Ketts at the end of his racing career. Ketts, who has a strong background with jumpers, sought out Regal American based on his physical appearance, according to Bassford.

Tommie's Star is also the first stakes winner for his 12-year-old dam, Lasting Tune (by Prospector's Music). A fourth-generation homebred, tracing back to a Prince Dare daughter named Patter Foot whom the Bassfords bought in the early 1970s, Lasting Tune was unraced because of a training accident.

Lasting Tune's dam, Fancy Feathers (by Brilliant Protege), is a stakes-placed full sister to multiple stakes winner Brilliant Stepper ($243,669) and stakes-placed Flying Feet ($171,667), and a half-sister to two other stakes horses. All of them campaigned for the Bassfords.

Lasting Tune has a 3-year-old filly, Fancy Music, and a 2-year-old colt, Ameri Melody, both by Ameri Valay. Fancy Music has made one start for the Bassfords, and Ameri Melody is in early training on their farm. The Bassfords also have high hopes for Lasting Tune's yearling filly by Rock Slide. Her 2007 Regal American foal died, and she was not bred for 2008.

Smart Strike colt leads locals at Keeneland

Seven Maryland-breds sold during the first four days of the Keeneland September sale.

Leading the Maryland-bred contingent, at $775,000, was a Smart Strike colt out of 1998 Maryland-bred horse of the year Tenski (by Polish Numbers), bred by Richard Golden's Sycamore Hall Farm LLC and consigned by Eaton Sales, agent. John Ferguson was the buyer.

Two other Maryland yearlings brought $500,000 each - a Hennessy colt (out of Jewel of the East, by Kris S.) bred by John T. Crane; and a More Than Ready filly (out of Kinlin, by Unbridled), bred by David and JoAnn Hayden's Dark Hollow Farm. The two were purchased by B. Wayne Hughes and Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Moss, respectively.