06/24/2004 11:00PM

Of breeders new and old, and big and small


The popular racing adage that a good horse can come from anywhere will come to life in Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine.

Robert Krembil and his son, Mark, who have been breeding horses on their multi-million dollar Chiefswood Farm in King, Ontario, for just three years, have two homebreds in the Plate, while Larry Regan, who has spent 53 years in the business, finally has his first homebred starter.

The Krembils, who caught the racing bug from Robert's father, Jake, began purchasing horses at yearling sales in 1992 and had moderate success.

Robert Krembil, who was born in Saskatchewan, was focused mainly on building his Trimark Financial Corporation, launched in 1981, into one of Canada's largest mutual funds corporations.

In 2000, the senior Krembil sold Trimark for a value reported at $2.7 billion, allowing the family to pursue the best pedigree lines they could find.

"We looked at people who have had success: Windfields, the Samuel family, Kinghaven, Frank Stronach," said Mark Krembil in 2003. "We're taking all kinds of information and trying to figure out the best way to do this."

After purchasing parcels of land in King and Loretto, towns north of Toronto, the Krembils had full facility broodmare and training farms.

The first homebreds to come off their farm were 3-year-olds of last season. Their second crop of foals include two Plate starters.

Niigon, a handsome son of Unbridled from the Nureyev mare Savethelastdance, is the second choice on the morning line, based on his troubled second-place finish in the Plate Trial.

The fast-improving Alleged Ruler, a recent maiden winner, is a son of A.P. Indy from the Chiefswood mare La Nana.

"We're finally getting some results but it never ends and we're always planning a couple of years ahead," said Mark Krembil. "This year we've continued to breed to the bigger stallions, we have some Gone Wests and Kingmambos in the paddock."

One homebred that the Krembils are eager to see on the track is a Storm Cat-Rose of Tara filly named Essential Edge.

The Krembils purchased Rose of Tara, a Generous mare, for $1.95 million carrying Essential Edge.

But first, the Krembils will be cheering on Niigon and Alleged Ruler in the 1 1/4-mile Plate.

"To get here with homebreds is really special," Krembils said. "We saw them being born, then as yearlings, and we've worked through all their bugs. It's always difficult to have patience, especially as new owners."

Regan's long wait is over

Regan is not a new owner. The former president of the Canadian and Ontario divisions of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has bred and raced horses since 1951 and has had several decent stakes horses.

But Will He Crow, the fourth homebred he has named for racetrack pal Billie Crowe, is his first Plate starter.

"It feels really great," said Regan, who gets emotional when he talks about Will He Crow. "But I'm getting nervous now."

Honored with a Sovereign Award for Man of the Year in 1987, Regan bred his allowance mare True Black to Ontario sire Tethra and got Will He Crow.

Tethra is a grandson of Town Ad, the dam of the best horse Regan bred, Sgt. Hunt.

"I brought the bloodlines into Ontario years ago with Sgt. Hunt, so I followed them," said Regan.

"[Will He Crow] showed that he had some class when we broke him as a yearling. We didn't rush him," said Regan.

Will He Crow has improved with each start and has a longshot chance to pick up a share of the Plate purse despite competing against powerhouse stables such as Chiefswood Stable.