04/06/2007 12:00AM

Bowmans repeat as breeders of the year

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Tom and Chris Bowman's Dance Forth Farm encompasses only 53 acres near historic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore. But it is a powerhouse of Thoroughbred breeding activity.

Horses foaled at Dance Forth (and bred by the Bowmans or in partnership) won 10 stakes in 2006, and earned nearly $2.7 million.

Representing the Bowmans were seven stakes winners, racing on both coasts.

Two were Maryland-bred champions - Clifton Park (2-year-old male) and Good Night Shirt (steeplechaser).

And one found his way to the Kentucky Derby. Point Determined (bred by the Bowmans in partnership with Milton P. Higgins III and Robert N. Clay) finished ninth in the Derby after a troubled trip, but won the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes and finished second in two major Triple Crown prep races, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

In recognition of those far-reaching accomplishments, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association has announced that the Bowmans will be honored as Maryland's breeder of the year for the second consecutive season and third time overall. The couple first won the award in 1998.

The breeders association's awards for broodmare and stallion of the year honor similarly illustrious performers: multiple-stakes-producer Endette, owned by King T. Leatherbury, and perennial top sire Not for Love, standing at Northview Stallion Station.

Endette was represented in 2006 by two Maryland-bred stars: Ah Day, a son of Malibu Moon who won six stakes en route to honors as champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old male, and Due (Rinka Das), upset winner of the Maryland Million Classic.

Leatherbury, of course, is legendary as a trainer. Based in Maryland for the vast majority of his career, he has won more than 6,100 races and ranks as the nation's third-leading trainer of all time by number of wins.

However, Leatherbury, a former president of the breeders association, has also successfully bred and owned horses in Maryland for decades. And some of the best horses he has bred, owned or trained are closely related to Endette, a 13-year-old daughter of Thirty Eight Paces.

Leatherbury bought Endette's dam, Dronette (by Drone), in partnership with his friend Hermen Greenberg for $57,000, in foal to Seclusive, at a Timonium auction in 1982.

Dronette turned out to be a gold mine as a broodmare, producing two Maryland-bred champions - Thirty Eight Go Go (by Thirty Eight Paces), who took titles as statebred 2-year-old filly champion in 1987 and older female in 1989, and Notches Trace, champion older mare in 1988.

Endette's sire represents another rewarding chapter in Leatherbury's career. It traces back to a spunky filly named Thirty Paces, whom Leatherbury trained to win 4 of 4 starts as a 2-year-old in 1975, prompting rider (now Maryland steward) Bill Passmore to recall her as possibly the fastest filly he ever rode.

Thirty Paces, also a Maryland-bred champion, broke down before proving her full worth. But Leatherbury seized the opportunity when her first foal, a son of Nodouble, was offered at a Florida yearling auction in 1979. Leatherbury assembled a partnership, bought the colt, named Thirty Eight Paces, for $38,000, and ultimately trained him to become a multiple stakes winner of $487,662.

Thirty Eight Paces, the first standout horse trained by Leatherbury, went on to a long career at stud in Maryland. Endette's son Ah Day, whom Leatherbury planned to send out Saturday in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap, carries on his legacy.

Not for Love, a 17-year-old son of Mr. Prospector-Dance Number (by Northern Dancer) kept up his remarkable pace in 2006, leading the list of Maryland sires for the fourth year in a row.

His progeny earnings totaled $4,653,780, and he was represented by 19 stakes runners, including stakes winners Private Scandal, Flame of Love, Forty Crowns, Ironton, Not for Sam, Shades of Sunny, Smart and Fancy, and Spirited Game.

Not for Love was honored as Maryland's stallion of the year for three consecutive seasons, from 2002 to 2004.

The awards will be presented, along with previously announced Maryland-bred champion awards, at the breeders association's annual dinner on April 17 at the Inn at Roop's Mill in Westminster. For more information call the breeders association at (410) 252-2100.