12/14/2007 12:00AM

Big buy paid off for the Benders

EmailNine years ago, Larry Murray, the trainer, farm manager, and bloodstock adviser for Sondra and Howard Bender's perennially successful Maryland operation, made one of the boldest moves of his career.

It happened when he placed the final bid of $460,000 on the Pleasant Colony mare Promenade Colony (in foal to Woodman) at the 1998 Keeneland November sale.

Close to a half-million dollars for a broodmare? Murray had never before asked the Benders to spend that kind of money.

Still, Promenade Colony's pedigree is the type that inspires dreams.

Out of Northern Dancer's daughter Dance Review and a full sister to Grade 2 winner and stakes producer Dance Colony, Promenade Colony comes from a family chock full of quality black type, developed by the late Thomas Mellon Evans.

For the Benders, it would turn out to be the auction buy of the decade, if not a lifetime.

They recouped their original investment nearly four times over with Promenade Colony's daughter Promenade Girl. Racing as a homebred for the Benders, Promenade Girl (by Carson City) won or placed in a dozen stakes, including a victory in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher, and earned $678,990. She was voted champion Maryland-bred older female of 2006.

Now 5, Promenade Girl strutted her wares at this year's Keeneland November sale, selling as a broodmare prospect for $1,125,000.

Promenade Colony also has left the Benders' Glade Valley Farms in Frederick, Md. The 15-year-old mare was sold (in foal to Smart Strike) for $200,000 at the 2007 Keeneland January sale.

Although no members of the family remain in production at Glade Valley, Promenade Colony's offspring continue to make their mark for the Benders.

The Benders, who have bred more than 25 stakes winners, were credited with another when Promenade Colony's daughter Dattts Awesome (by Awesome Again) won the All Brandy Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies on Nov. 17 at Laurel Park.

Dattts Awesome, the only one of Promenade Colony's foals sold at auction as a yearling by the Benders, went for $250,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale. She is raced in partnership by the Dattt Stable of Tom and Diana Ryan of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Jupiter, Fla.

Dattts Awesome just missed in her stakes debut, the Twin Lights Stakes at Monmouth on Sept. 2, in which she was runner-up by a neck to Bachat. She has 3 wins in 12 starts and has earned $101,954.

Trainer Mark Hennig, who has trained Dattts Awesome throughout her career, has set the Grade 3, $100,000 Frances A. Genter Stakes on Dec. 29 at Calder as her immediate goal.

Meanwhile, the Benders have two younger Promenade Colony offspring making their way to the starting gate.

Murray sees strong potential in Promenade Colony's yearling filly by Tale of the Cat. Currently receiving her early education from Lucia Carroll in South Carolina, that unnamed filly is expected to race for the Benders in 2008. But her value as a broodmare prospect is already substantial, no matter what her race record turns out to be.

Promenade Colony also has a 2-year-old gelding by Grand Slam, named Colonel Grand, who is in training with Murray at Laurel but hasn't made it to the races. He was held back from the yearling sales because of an offset knee, Murray explained.

Promenade Colony foaled a Smart Strike filly on May 26 at her new home, Hill 'N' Dale Farm in Kentucky.

Murray decided that it was time to sell the mare because she might never be worth more than she was last winter.

"We were very happy that she went to a good place," Murray said of Promenade Colony, who is now owned in partnership by Hill 'N' Dale.

Promenade Girl also went to good hands. She was purchased by Ben Sangster in the name of Thoroughbred Advisory Group Inc.