09/18/2002 11:00PM

Beyond the bankroll: Story of Whywhywhy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Not all interesting stories about breeding racehorses are about glittering pedigrees and immense auction prices. As the tale of Seabiscuit shows, the successful underdog has dramatic appeal for the public, and the history of Whywhywhy, winner of the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes on Sunday at Belmont, shows why readers and horse breeders delight in and take hope from the unpredictable successes of the sport.

James Jones, who earns his daily bread shoeing horses, bred the chestnut colt by Mr. Greeley from a mare claimed for $5,000. "Randy Swanson, who is now yearling manager at Spendthrift, told me there was a nice filly in for $5,000 that I ought to go claim," said Jones. "So I did."

That filly was Thorough Fair, the daughter of Quiet American who became the dam of Whywhywhy. Jones didn't claim her on a whim; he had a plan. "I wanted to claim a couple of mares," he said, "get them in foal, and sell them."

In pursuit of his goal, Jones bought two mares, but "neither got in foal. So I felt kind of left out about that. But the next year Thorough Fair got in foal to Mystery Storm, and I decided to keep the mare and sell her foal."

Again, this was a reasonable plan, but again there was a pothole on the road to profit. About a month before the Mystery Storm filly was supposed to sell at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2000, Jones's brother called to tell him the filly was hurt. "She must have spooked and run into a fence," said Jones. "She had a big knot on the side of her head and a bruise on her shoulder. It was pretty bad, and the vet recommended putting her down. But I didn't have her insured, so I tried to save her. It took a long time to heal, about a year."

The filly survived and now is doing well.

Jones hadn't lost confidence in his mare and sent her to Mr. Greeley for her next mating. He said, "It took all the money I could pull together to breed her to Mr. Greeley, and the result was Whywhywhy."

The colt was a good-looking youngster, and Jones followed his plan by sending him to the September sale. "The only thing people didn't like was the way he held his head," he said. "He holds his head very high. Still, I thought I was going to get a pretty good price for him. The bids came really fast, and I decided to bump it once and let him sell. Instead, I got him back, and you can imagine how I felt about that."

After buying the colt in for $27,000, Jones had a turn of fortune. "About an hour later, Mike Ryan called and said he'd been in the barns looking at yearlings and hadn't made it to the ring in time to bid," Jones said.

Ryan bought the colt privately for approximately the hammer price.

Ryan's goal was to pinhook the colt at the 2002 sales of 2-year-olds in training, and he nominated Whywhywhy to the Fasig-Tipton sale at Calder in February. However, Ryan said, "The colt was withdrawn prior to the sale and sold privately to Patrick Biancone. He saw him on the farm and liked him and bought him privately. The colt never even shipped to Calder. He was training at Bobby Scanlon's in Florida. I bought the horse for $29,000, and the price was in six figures.

"I thought it was a realistic price at the time," Ryan continued, "and I'm very happy the horse has done this well. It also makes a great success story for James Jones, who's a real solid fellow who works six days a week many months of the year. It shows what this sport can do for you."

Although he didn't profit immensely from selling Whywhywhy, Jones has hit a home run with this family. At the September sale this year, Jones sold a half-brother (by Tale of the Cat) to Whywhywhy for $375,000 to Jerome Moss. In addition, Jones saved the colt's half-sister, now a 3-year-old, and her name is Mystery's Essence.

Jones said, "I gave her to my son and daughter, and we'll breed her to Mr. Greeley next year if Bruce Kline" - who stands the stallion at Spendthrift Farm - "gives the okay." Lisa Jones, 27, is a student at the University of Kentucky, and Jerard Jones, 23, "took one semester of college and decided he'd rather shoe horses," his father said.

During the winter after buying Whywhywhy, "Mike Ryan stopped at the farm and said, 'Breed Thorough Fair back to Mr. Greeley. I've not had a horse this good,' " Jones said.

Jones took the advice. Thorough Fair is currently boarded at Spendthrift, and she produced a full brother to the Futurity winner this spring. The weanling is so like Whywhywhy that "he's going to be his twin," Jones said. "He has a narrow blaze down his face but otherwise is pretty much the same" as Whywhywhy.

Thorough Fair is back in foal to Mr. Greeley, who is having a tremendous year at stud with three Grade 1 stakes winners, three other group or graded winners, and a three more winners of listed stakes. Thorough Fair's mating plans for next year have not been determined.