05/01/2003 11:00PM

Bargain mares: Who knew?

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Call it a good eye, the result of years of studying, or plain old good fortune, but Maryland horsepeople plucked a number of broodmares out of sales in recent years for a fraction of what those mares or their offspring are worth today.

Two of this year's Kentucky Derby contenders - Atswhatimtalknbout and Funny Cide - are older half-brothers to Maryland-bred youngsters.

Lucinda K's second foal, Atswhatimtalknbout, had just turned 2 when the then 8-year-old mare walked into the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sales ring in February 2002, in foal to Belong to Me.

Patrick Konka and his wife, Maureen Johnson, have a long track record of finding bargains at the sales. A dozen years ago they purchased Brilliant Lady for $1,700, only to see her become a hot commodity when her daughter Brilliant Brass was named 1992 Maryland-bred horse of the year.

According to Konka, his wife has a discerning eye and must like a mare physically before they decide to buy. Lucinda K fit the bill. A nice, big, correct mare with good bone structure and a decent race record, Lucinda K had another attribute, according to Konka. She had been bred to very good stallions, and her value would only increase if one of her first foals did well.

The couple spent $41,000 to acquire Lucinda K, and two weeks later, Atswhatimtalknbout sold at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale for $900,000. In January of this year, Konka and Johnson sold Lucinda K privately to B. Wayne Hughes for an undisclosed sum and, Konka admits, for a substantial profit.

Konka and Johnson intend to sell their yearling filly by Belong to Me out of Lucinda K either at the Fasig-Tipton July or Saratoga sale.

The Boniface family of Bonita Farm found a gem when Belle's Good Cide, then 8, was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December sale in 2001. Belle's Good Cide's second foal, Funny Cide, was a yearling at the time.

Belle's Good Cide had been through the sales ring nearly two years before the Bonifaces bought her, at Keeneland in January, selling for $100,000 with Funny Cide in utero. The Bonifaces needed only $3,500 to buy the mare, who was not in foal at the time.

The Bonifaces had been searching the sales for certain sire lines they believed would cross well with their farm's first-year stallion, the impeccably bred Mojave Moon, a son of Mr. Prospector out of champion East of the Moon. In the search for Seattle Slew lines, they found his granddaughter Belle's Good Cide (by Slewacide).

Belle's Good Cide produced a colt, Mojave Moon's first foal, Jan. 6. Two months later, the mare suffered a severe bout of colic and was humanely destroyed following surgery at New Bolton Center. Her orphaned foal, whom Joan Boniface considers "a gift," thrived even without his dam and now resides with two other weanlings.

Another eyecatching broodmare purchase was made by trainer John Salzman, also the ticket signer of one of racing's most legendary buys when he took eventual multi-millionaire Xtra Heat for $5,000 at a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale at Timonium. Salzman returned to Timonium in February 2001 in search of a broodmare at the request of his wife, Nancy, who wanted to populate the couple's farm in Sykesville with a mare and foal.

Jumping off the catalog page was the pedigree of a mare from the family of Belmont Stakes winner Summing. Redeployed, by M. Double M. out of Sumba and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner First Albert, was a 9-year-old mare carrying her fourth foal. Salzman went to $3,500, but the hammer dropped one bid later. As luck would have it, the person who outbid Salzman denied making the bid, so the mare was soon on a van to Sykesville.

Redeployed foaled Run Cat Run two months later. A daughter of Sir Cat, Run Cat Run made her career debut in Pimlico's first 2-year-old race of the year April 16 and rolled to a 6 1/2-length victory. Before the Salzmans could make it home, offers were pouring in for the filly. Nancy preferred not to sell, but the Salzmans took the deal when the final figure reached well into six figures.

The Salzmans still own Redeployed, their only mare, and have her yearling colt by Meadow Monster also on the farm. Redeployed was not bred for 2003, but returned this spring to Meadow Monster, who stands at nearby Green Willow Farms.