04/02/2004 1:00AM

Breeder misses out on big payday

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"It's like hitting the lottery and losing the ticket," said Tom Graul, after a horse he bred - 5-year-old Our New Recruit - rose from obscurity to win last weekend's Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Graul, the proprietor of an upscale supermarket in Hereford, Md., sold all of his horses two years ago, as the result of a divorce. He also sold the 81-acre farm, Manor Glen, in Monkton, where Our New Recruit was born.

All that's left are the memories, and echoing words of wisdom from Graul's friend and advisor David Hayden, who warned him that success does not happen overnight in the horse business.

Graul bought Our New Recruit's dam, the Lord Avie mare Delta Danielle, along with three other broodmares, on Hayden's advice at the 1999 Keeneland January sale. Delta Danielle, who was carrying Our New Recruit (by Alphabet Soup), cost $40,000. Graul hauled the mares home himself, driving his gooseneck trailer, and found, he said, "six inches of ice" on the ground at his Maryland farm. Perhaps the ice was a sign that Graul's first full-scale venture into the Thoroughbred business would require caution. But Graul was far from discouraged at the time."I used to do a lot of the work myself," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Hayden, who along with his wife, Jo Ann, ranks among Maryland's all-time successful breeders, had high hopes for Delta Danielle from the outset.

"It seemed to me that Lord Avie was right on the cusp of being a good broodmare sire," he said. "And I think Alphabet Soup has been underrated."

A multiple-stakes-placed earner of $184,820, Delta Danielle (out of Domasco Danielle, by Same Direction) produced Our New Recruit as her second foal. Her first foal is stakes-placed Danielle's Affair (1998, Black Tie Affair).

Graul sold Our New Recruit as a weanling for $40,000 at the 1999 Keeneland November sale. The colt was resold for $47,000 at the next year's Keeneland September yearling sale, and he went through the ring a third time at the 2001 Barretts 2-year-olds in training sale, where California-based trainer John Sadler bought him for $120,000. Sadler trains him for CRK Stable.

Competitive in West Coast allowance company throughout the early parts of his career, Our New Recruit didn't make his stakes debut until last November, placing second in the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park. He returned to finish third in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap on Feb. 1 at Santa Anita. Then it was on to Dubai, where a victory in the about six-furlong race (in which Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat finished fourth) established him as one of the world's best sprinters.

The Golden Shaheen, worth $1.2 million to the winner, boosted Our New Recruit's earnings to $1,423,120. He is now the ninth-leading Maryland-bred money-earner of all time.

What, meanwhile, became of Delta Danielle? The 13-year-old mare is safe and sound at the Haydens' Dark Hollow Farm in Upperco, Md. Graul transferred ownership to Hayden in March 2002, in exchange for sales prepping and other horse-related services.

Delta Danielle produced three other foals for Graul: a 2000 Partner's Hero colt, Delta Lord, whom he sold for $1,200 at the Keeneland September yearling sale; a 2001 Two Punch filly, Can't Get Enough, sold privately as a weanling to bloodstock agent Marshall Silverman (and twice sold at auction in Maryland as a yearling, for $45,000 and $47,000); and the 2-year-old Partner's Hero filly Heartful Hero, whom Hayden now co-owns with Maryland trainer Anthony Aguirre.

Delta Danielle also has a yearling Partner's Hero filly, whom Hayden plans to keep and race. She is due to foal again to Two Punch on April 24, and is booked back to Alphabet Soup.

Hayden arranged the breeding to Alphabet Soup last November, long before Our New Recruit made his trip to the desert of Dubai.

"I smelled something in the air," he said.