05/06/2004 11:00PM

Breeder finds success with first try


Name the 3-year-old colt who was bred by a small operation, born and raised on a farm in the suburbs of a major East Coast city, won his maiden impressively at a mid-Atlantic track in his first start, and won a stakes race on the first Saturday in May. If you guessed Frisky Spider, you are correct.

Frisky Spider may not have been in the race he was originally being pointed to May 1, but the result couldn't have been rosier for his breeder, Diane Mukhergee. Frisky Spider, a product of the first mating Mukhergee ever planned, earned his first stakes victory in the Francis "Jock" LaBelle Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

Mukhergee lives with her husband, Anil, and sons, Sean and Ryan, on 18-acre Kendua Farm in Brookeville, Md., approximately 20 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. While Mukhergee can enlist the help from her family from time to time, generally it's a one-woman show.

Mukhergee's venture into the world of Thoroughbreds didn't happen overnight. When she and her husband purchased their property in the early 1980's, they built a house and a barn, and Mukhergee dove into her first equine passion - event horses. Within a few years, Mukhergee branched out in a new direction, Thoroughbreds sales, and began pinhooking. Soon, the idea of breeding a few mares led Mukhergee down another path.

One of Mukhergee's first broodmare acquisitions was a daughter of Silver Deputy named Deraign, who was purchased out of the 1999 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale.

"When I saw her in the sale, I assumed she'd be out of my price range," said Mukhergee. "I really liked the way she was built and her presence. And I felt Silver Deputy would make a good broodmare sire."

Mukhergee says she was surprised when she was able to get Deraign for $15,000. Deraign was carrying her first foal, a colt by In Case, who was later sold as a weanling.

In selecting a stallion to breed to Deraign in 2000, Mukhergee chose Frisk Me Now, a $1.7 million earner who won nine stakes in his career, including regional events such as the Grade 2 Philip H. Iselin Handicap and Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby.

"I liked him as a racehorse," said Mukhergee. "He was versatile and had a long career."

The result of the mating was Frisky Spider, who was foaled at Kendua Farm the following January.

Lucky is how Mukhergee describes her first venture in the breeding business, especially when trainer Bob Durso picked out Frisky Spider at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale in 2001. Durso and his wife, Carol Dender, had campaigned Frisk Me Now and attended the sale to promote their stallion and see his foals. Durso had no intention of buying a yearling, but couldn't pass up Frisk Me Now's dark bay son, who "just stood out," said Durso. "I thought if he didn't bring a lot, I'd have to buy him. He impressed me that much." Durso took Frisky Spider home for $10,000.

Martin Friedman, a longtime friend and client of Durso's, was watching the sale live on the Internet when Frisky Spider went through the ring. When the gavel fell, Friedman called Durso and asked if he wanted a partner in the colt.

"Bob has such a great eye for horses, and he said this colt looked like his sire," said Friedman.

Frisky Spider won his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths as a 2-year-old at The Meadowlands in late October, then garnered attention this past winter at Gulfstream Park with eye-catching back-to-back allowance wins. Durso had a good feeling about Frisky Spider and his ability to stretch out in distance, and set his sights on the Triple Crown trail by entering Frisky Spider in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. After making the early pace, Frisky Spider faded to seventh. Taking another shot in graded company, Frisky Spider turned in a near-identical effort in the Florida Derby.

In hindsight, Durso says he believes Frisky Spider's races were too close together in Florida. Frisky Spider matured in the seven weeks between the Florida Derby and the Jock LaBelle Memorial and produced a gritty performance to win the six-furlong Delaware stakes by a neck.

The next start on Frisky Spider's calendar is expected to be the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Riva Ridge Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day, June 5. And Durso, who is based at Monmouth Park, says there remains a good chance Frisky Spider will see two turns in the future.