06/12/2002 11:00PM

Belmont win sets up dam for years


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sarava's victory in the Belmont Stakes brought yet another level of recognition to the colt's sire, the Three Chimneys stallion Wild Again. At the age of 22, Wild Again has added a Belmont winner to his list of accomplishments, which include siring top juvenile winners, sprinters, milers, and now a classic winner.

Whereas a good sire like Wild Again can succeed without a classic winner until the latter part of his stud career, Sarava could hardly have come at a better time for his young dam, the Deputy Minister mare Rhythm of Life. Only 8, Rhythm of Life is assured of excellent mates for years to come.

Last weekend's result also had significant ties to the Breeders' Cup, as Wild Again became only the second winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic to sire a winner in one of the U.S. Triple Crown races. The first was Unbridled, who sired Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone and Preakness winner Red Bullet.

Furthermore, John Gaines, an important force in the creation of the Breeders' Cup, bred Rhythm of Life, then sold her as a weanling for $130,000 in 1994. Rhythm of Life's sire, Deputy Minister, has sired a winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, freshman sire Awesome Again, and two winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Open Mind and Go for Wand.

But a decade before Rhythm of Life was born, when the first Breeders' Cup races were run in November 1984, the highlight of the card was the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Wild Again took home the money and glory with a brave victory.

Previously unbeaten that season, champion Slew o' Gold was the odds-on favorite to win the race and Horse of the Year honors.

The second favorite was Preakness winner Gate Dancer, while Wild Again was the second-longest shot on the tote board. But under a steady and well-calculated ride from Pat Day, Wild Again led for most of the race and won by a head from his more favored opponents after a dramatic stretch duel.

Retired to stud at Calumet Farm, Wild Again had his stud career thrown into turmoil when that farm went under in the breeding business's most spectacular bankruptcy. As the Calumet stallions were being parceled off, Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys, stepped in and purchased Calumet's half of the stallion, which he still owns in partnership with Bill Allen.

Just as he was overlooked in the wagering for his important racing victory, "Wild Again has always been a little bit of a Rodney Dangerfield as a sire, in the sense of not getting full credit for his offspring's race records," said Dan Rosenberg, general manager of Three Chimneys. Perhaps this was the result of his hectic early years at stud, but also Wild Again, a neatly made horse of medium size, does not tend to sire the big, flashy yearlings who consistently bring the largest sums at auction.

For the record, however, Wild Again has been very successful and very consistent. Over the last eight seasons, his offspring have earned more than $4 million annually, and the best of his racers have included Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Elmhurst, Florida Derby winner Vicar, Metropolitan Handicap winner Wild Rush, Santa Anita Handicap winner Milwaukee Brew, and Spinster winner Wilderness Song from a total of 73 stakes winners.

Of these, Wilderness Song has special significance in the breeding of the Belmont winner, as she is a half-sister to Sarava's dam, Rhythm of Life. Wilderness Song won 15 races and more than $1.4 million during four seasons of racing, showing speed and durability, and was voted a championship in Canada for owner Sam-Son Farm.

Sold for $130,000 at the Keeneland November mixed sale to Marty and Pam Wygod, Rhythm of Life did not race. Instead, she was bred as a 3-year-old, and her first two foals are both colts by Wild Again, the sire of her illustrious half-sister.

The magic in this cross worked again because the first offspring, a colt named Wild Rocket, sold for $250,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale and for $265,000 at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training. His year-younger full brother, Sarava, brought $190,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic October yearling sale and resold for $250,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old auction at Calder.

In between producing this pair of colts, Rhythm of Life was sold at the 1998 Keeneland November sale for $180,000 while carrying Sarava. And the following spring, she produced the Belmont winner for Timber Bay Farm.