10/07/2005 12:00AM

Borrego's potential turns into performance

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Borrego's Jockey Club Gold Cup victory was his second straight Grade 1.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - By virtue of successive victories in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic and last weekend's Jockey Club Gold Cup, Borrego has thrust himself into the thick of consideration for the Breeders' Cup Classic. A victory there would mean not just an Eclipse Award as leading older horse but possibly recognition as Horse of the Year.

This would be an enviable result for the chestnut colt's breeders - Jon Kelly from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Lexington businessman Brad Scott; Southern California veterinarian Sam Bradley; and Beau Greely, who also trains Borrego, a son of leading sire El Prado.

Greely's brother, John Greely IV, said that he owns some broodmares in partnership with his brother, as well as operating Wintergreen Stallion Station in Lexington, which stands the freshmen sires Five Star Day and Ecton Park, along with Century City and the recently retired Pollard's Vision.

But John Greely did not own part of Borrego's dam, Sweet as Honey. He said, "Jon Kelly was getting into Thoroughbreds and was going to my brother's barn when Five Star Day was racing. Jon was a hunting buddy with Sam Bradley, and my brother does a lot with Brad Scott, who owns [the restaurants] Suggins and Rossi's here in town."

After watching the successes of Five Star Day and becoming more excited about breeding and racing, "They decided to get into the broodmare business," Greely said, "and I bought the mare Sweet as Honey for $200,000 out of the 1998 November sale from James Keogh's consignment."

Sweet as Honey was carrying her first foal, by Preakness winner Pine Bluff. After racing unsuccessfully at 2, Sweet as Honey had been bred at 3, but she was an attractive prospect because of her age, conformation, and pedigree, being a half-sister to Canadian champion Truth of It All and to Grade 1 winner I Ain't Bluffing (by Pine Bluff).

As a very young broodmare with an active family, Sweet as Honey appealed as a high-end commercial prospect.

"We bought her strictly as a business venture," Greely said. "The foals sold well but weren't bringing big numbers."

As an example, the foal that Sweet as Honey was carrying at the time of her purchase was a filly who sold at the Keeneland July select yearling sale in 2000 for $75,000. As a result of the economics of breeding and selling yearlings, Greely said, the owners decided to sell Sweet as Honey.

Borrego was a weanling when the partners put the 6-year-old mare up for sale.

"We actually sold her in foal to Dixie Union over the Internet site Starquine," Greely said. "It was pretty much a break-even deal. And the partners still had Borrego."

As subsequent events have proven, that was the equivalent of a grand slam. But at the time, the partners were looking at their breeding venture as a commercial vehicle, not as a means of producing racehorses.

On top of that, Greely said, "Borrego was a late May foal. But he was a big, impressive foal, and for a May foal he was a big, rangy type of horse."

While this was appealing conformation for a prospective racehorse, the chestnut colt didn't grow up into an ideal sales yearling.

"He was leggy," Greely said, "and at the sale, he wasn't very attractive to the pinhookers because he was too immature at that stage."

At this point, many breeders would have thrown up their hands and said, "Get him out of here." And Borrego would have earned $2 million for some lucky bargain hunter.

Wiser heads were looking out for the best interests of the partners, however. "My dad loved Borrego and told Beau not to let him go cheap," Greely said. "So Beau bought him back out of the Keeneland September sale for $20,000. Then we sent Borrego and Pollard's Vision" - also raised at Wintergreen - "down to Eddie Woods in Florida to be broken."

The breeders sent Borrego through the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds, where Beau Greely bought him back for $75,000, and after Borrego went to California to continue training, Bradley sold his interest to Dennis Foster and Raleigh Ralls.

Regarded as one of the best horses not to win a stakes last year, Borrego has elevated his status, as well as his earnings, with consecutive victories in Grade 1 stakes.

Borrego's successes are further confirmation that his sire, El Prado, is one of the most significant sires in North America. Leading sire by gross earnings in 2002, El Prado continues as a leading competitor for that distinction. To date, he has sired 58 stakes winners, including the noted racers Kitten's Joy and Artie Schiller.

The 10-year-old Sweet as Honey, in foal to El Prado on a March 27 cover, is in the Keeneland November sale as part of the Three Chimneys Farm consignment. Since producing Borrego, the mare has a 3-year-old colt by Dixie Union, a yearling colt by Festival of Light, and a weanling filly by Aptitude.