05/31/2007 11:00PM

Bittersweet spring for breeder Butts


This spring has brought an emotional roller-coaster ride for Maryland breeder Deborah Butts.

Butts, who has been in the breeding business since 1996, got her first stakes winner on May 26 when the 3-year-old gelding Heezafrequentflyer scored in the Jiva Coolit Stakes at Charles Town. Owned by Butts in partnership with her parents, Edward and Marilyn Bargetz, in the name of Bits N Blarney LLC, Heezafrequentflyer is out of the first horse Butts ever bred, Sheezawildkat.

One of the lowest times came just one month earlier, when Sheezawildkat, who held a special place in Butts's heart, died immediately after foaling a Jazz Club colt. Fortunately, Heezafrequentflyer's half-brother is perfectly healthy, and is thriving on a nurse mare.

Butts and her husband, David, an equine dentist who also has a thriving business breaking young horses for outside clients, live at their Windy Willows Farm, located just outside Libertytown in central Maryland. While they breed on a small scale, at any give time the 133-acre farm could have 35 horses in residence, counting mares and foals, layups, horses in early training, and retirees. Butts, who doesn't ride, manages the activities of the farm.

When Butts met her husband in 1989, David Butts owned a broodmare named Regal One, a winning full sister to stakes-placed Truly Worthy. When bred to local stallion Century Prince (a stakes-winning son of longtime leading Maryland sire Rollicking), Regal One produced a filly named Ceefrancis Run.

Although possessing speed, Ceefrancis Run failed to win a race in four starts, and was eventually sold as a riding horse. But Deborah Butts asked to breed her one time, and the couple selected another local stallion, the reliable sire Clever Champ, a son of Clever Trick who was getting a high percentage of winners from foals.

Ceefrancis Run's only foal, born in 1996, was Sheezawildkat.

A diminutive mare with a muscular frame, Sheezawildkat "was a gritty runner," Butts said. Although burdened by breathing problems, Sheezawildkat won 7 of 30 outings, and had her best season at age 4 when she won or placed in 8 of her 11 starts, from allowance to lower-end claiming races, all at Charles Town. Sheezawildkat was claimed from Butts during that season, but Butts claimed her back within a few months and retired her.

To "keep the peace" in their marriage, the Buttses don't own any horses together. "We don't always agree on where to run them," Butts said with a laugh, so she is the breeder of the foals out of Sheezawildcat. The first three, who have all started, are winners. Heezafrequentflyer, a son of the late Maryland sire Aaron's Concorde, is the mare's third foal. From 9 starts, the gelding has won 4 times and placed in 3 others, for earnings of $93,190. Butts noted that although Sheezawildcat's offspring tend to be on the small side, "she put a lot of confidence in her foals."

The success with offspring by Aaron's Concorde extends in the Buttses' household, as David Butts bred and campaigned an Aaron's Concorde filly named Leavn Ona Jetplane, who placed in two stakes and earned nearly $150,000, and is now a broodmare at Windy Willows.

"For how few mares he got, he had a lot of winners," said Deborah Butts of Aaron's Concorde.

Heezafrequentflyer is the fifth stakes winner for the stallion, who stood just a few miles from the Buttses' farm. A stakes-winning son of French champion Super Concorde from the family that includes Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense, Aaron's Concorde died in June 2005 at the age of 21.

Butts can't repeat the breeding that produced her first stakes winner, but there are other mares in production on the farm, including Carni's Luck, a stakes-placed daughter of Carnivalay who produced a Meadow Monster filly this spring, and Fine Wood, a stakes-placed daughter of Baederwood (and a close relative to graded stakes winner Who Wouldn't), who is jointly owned by the couple. One year David breeds the foal, the next Deborah is listed as breeder. Fine Wood is in foal to Maryland's leading freshman sire, Rock Slide.