07/22/2004 11:00PM

Breeder's success flows from family of Ran's Chick

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Virginia breeder R. Larry Johnson has had such success with the descendants of Ran's Chick, the first Thoroughbred he ever owned, that he doesn't let many out of his grasp. But on occasion he will sell, and one that got away was Niclie, winner of Delaware Park's Light Hearted Handicap last Sunday.

Niclie, a 4-year-old filly by Pembroke out of Ran's Chick's daughter Another Kell, bested Bronze Abe and Our Josephina in the Light Hearted, a race that lost half its six-horse field when downpours hit Delaware early Sunday morning. In recording her first stakes victory, Niclie has now earned $251,540 from 25 starts over three seasons.

Sold by Johnson as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale in 2002 for $25,000, Niclie was eligible for the NATC Sorority Futurity at Delaware Park that fall. In only her second start, while still a maiden, Niclie finished second in the stakes, which is restricted to 2-year-old fillies nominated with the National Association of Two-Year-Old Consignors and cataloged to a juvenile sale.

In the past two seasons, Niclie had campaigned primarily in allowance company, with an occasional, if unsuccessful, appearance in stakes. Three times she was dropped into claiming races, and in the most recent, on June 6, she was taken. Trainer Howard Wolfendale snatched up Niclie for $25,000 on behalf of owner Raymond Makarovich Jr. In Niclie's three subsequent starts, all at Delaware Park, she is undefeated.

Johnson watched each of Niclie's recent wins "with a bit of anguish," he said, laughing, because he lost the shake the day Wolfendale claimed her. But Johnson still has Another Kell, a daughter of Parfaitement who produced a Diamond filly this year. And, of the 20 mares in Johnson's broodmare band, more than half are Ran's Chick's descendants.

Ran's Chick's impact would have appeared improbable when Johnson bought her for $2,400 as a 2-year-old out of a Timonium auction in 1978. "She bowed before she ever raced," Johnson said of the daughter of The Big Boss out of Moon Money, by Troy Weight. Johnson wasn't sure what to do with Ran's Chick, so she became his first broodmare.

Over the next decade, Johnson sent Ran's Chick to modestly priced stallions. Her first foal was the Red Monk filly Whatwouldhappenif, a winner of 11 races from 56 starts.

Ran's Chick's second foal was also a winner. Her third, Turn to T. J. (by Turn to Reason), became Johnson's first stakes winner.

"The family has been great," Johnson said. "I've been very lucky."

Ran's Chick produced additional stakes winner Special Kell (Another Kell's older full sister) and the stakes-placed Hi Earl, and had 11 winners from 13 foals. And her daughters have continued to build on Johnson's foundation mare's legacy.

Turn to T. J. produced stakes winners Star Trace and T. J.'s Turn from only two foals. Special Kell is the dam of stakes-placed Wonderous Woman. Another daughter, Very Busy, no longer owned by Johnson, produced stakes winner Final Table. Eighty percent of Ran's Chick's descendants who have started have won, and the family is producing close to 20 percent stakes horses from runners.

Another branch of Ran's Chick's family that continues to blossom is that of Whatwouldhappenif. The dam of four stakes horses, including winner What It Is (by Parfaitement), Whatwouldhappenif is the granddam of Partners Due, a 2-year-old filly that Johnson has high hopes for. By Partner's Hero, Partners Due won her maiden by 17 lengths at Colonial Downs on July 11 in her second start, and was just a second off the track record for six furlongs. Partners Due is aiming for the Schuylerville Stakes on opening day at Saratoga.

Johnson, a certified public accountant, owns 175-acre Legacy Farm in Bluemont, Va., a beautiful facility in northern Virginia horse country that he has transformed into a successful breeding operation. Stallions standing at Legacy are Virginia's current leading sire, Prospect Bay; multiple stakes winner Bop, who stood his first season in 2004; and Hurricane State, a group-winning half-brother to Pleasantly Perfect.