04/24/2008 11:00PM

Better Than Honour family rakes in awards

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - John Sikura called it "an embarrassment of riches," and it is certainly an embarrassment any breeder would love to share.

Sikura was referring to a recent bloom of champions in the close family of Better Than Honour. Sikura owns the 12-year-old Deputy Minister mare in partnership with Mike Moreno of Southern Equine Stables, and her quality was reaffirmed last week when the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders named her its Broodmare of the Year for 2007.

The awards luncheon was the occasion for Sikura's happy embarrassment, because two other honorees there - both 3-year-old champion fillies - also are members of Better Than Honour's immediate family. Her daughter, North American champion 3-year-old filly Rags to Riches, was named the top Kentucky-bred 3-year-old. And Peeping Fawn, a champion in Europe last year, was voted best Kentucky-bred abroad for last year's racing season. Peeping Fawn is out of the Sadler's Wells mare Maryinsky, who is a half-sister to Better Than Honour and hails, like Better Than Honour, from the Northern Dancer sire line.

"My feeling was that I wish it could be spread out over a longer timeframe, maybe six or seven years, rather than having an embarrassment of riches all in the same afternoon," quipped Sikura. "It's rare to have one award, but then to have three from the same immediate pedigree in the same year - I don't think that's ever been done before.

"I don't think that there's a common aptitude or physical trait," he said of the deep family. "If you look at the pedigree, you've got a filly that won the Belmont beating colts at 1 1/2 miles, and Peeping Fawn is a turf filly, so you have dirt and turf. And Better Than Honour was a good 2-year-old. They have the ability to produce any kind of a horse, the best of their generation on dirt or turf, long or short, depending on who you breed them to."

Sikura initially sold Better Than Honour privately in 2002 for more than $2 million to Ira and Stanley Gumberg, then bought her back privately from Coolmore four years later. He hasn't disclosed the price he and Moreno paid, but it's fair to say the mare's value skyrocketed between 2002 and 2006. First for the Gumbergs's Skara Glen Farm and then for Coolmore, she produced three foals that sold for $725,000, $1.9 million, and $950,000. The first was Jazil, and it was after his 2006 Belmont Stakes victory that Sikura and Moreno bought Better Than Honour back. Their timing was good, because Rags to Riches, the $1.9 million yearling, was waiting in the wings. In 2007, she would make her dam the only mare to produce back-to-back Belmont winners.

"By that time, I had set up a partnership with Mike at Southern Equine, and the goal is to try to acquire high-end commercial mares with the potential to be very important," Sikura said. "Better Than Honour was one I thought of right away. At the time, Rags to Riches had run once as a 2-year-old and chipped an ankle and was turned out."

Better Than Honour was in foal to Giant's Causeway when Sikura and Moreno purchased her; that colt, Man of Iron, is now 2 and unraced.

Sikura has high hopes for Better Than Honour's future. Her $950,000 Mineshaft yearling, now the juvenile Casino Drive, won his debut this year by 11 lengths, and Better Than Honour should have many more productive years that could mean big earnings in the sale ring for Sikura and Moreno.

Sikura, understandably, is glad to have Better Than Honour back.

"It's a business, but at the same time, there is sentiment, and you have to try to balance the two the best way you can," he said. "When I sold her, it wasn't that I wanted to sell her; it was a business decision. To have her back is enormously satisfying and probably validated for me the conflict of emotions I had when she sold."

Storm Cat colt tops OBS sale

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. ended its four-day spring 2-year-old sale Thursday evening with fewer horses sold and a slight decline in gross paired with mixed results for average and median.

The lone Storm Cat juvenile in the auction topped the sale Wednesday on a $400,000 bid from Peachtree Stables principal John Fort. The bay colt is out of Grade 1 winner Nany's Sweep, making him a half-brother to graded winner She's Indy Money. He had worked an eighth-mile in 10.20 seconds at the under-tack show.

Stephens Thoroughbreds consigned the Storm Cat colt on behalf of Vision Sales, which paid $200,000 for him at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale.

The four-day auction sold 772 horses as compared to 786 last year, but gross dipped only fractionally, falling from $22,698,400 in 2007 to $22,578,000. The average price went up just more than 1 percent, from $28,878 to $29,246. Median rose 6 percent from $17,000 to $18,000, and the buyback rate remained steady at about 28 percent.

At Thursday's final session, Padua Stables struck again, buying the session-topping Harlan's Holiday colt for $370,000. The bay colt is out of the unraced Wavering Monarch mare Act So Noble and was sold by Another Episode Farm as agent. He worked an eighth-mile in 10.20 seconds at the sale's under-tack show.

Padua also purchased Tuesday's session-topper, a $220,000 Silver Deputy-Kris Star colt consigned by Parrish Farms, agent.