01/17/2002 1:00AM

Broad Brush begets quality not quantity

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A quick study of 2001's leading general sire list reveals a familiar name near the top once again. Gainesway stallion Broad Brush, now 19, ended the year as North America's sixth-leading stallion, with progeny earnings of more than $5.5 million last year.

That's a few lengths behind the list's top stallion, Thunder Gulch, whose $3.3 million-earner Point Given contributed a lot to the sire's year-end bankroll of $7.9 million. But what makes the Maryland-bred Broad Brush's high place on the general sire list interesting is the fact that he got there on relatively small 50-mare books, and on a relatively modest pedigree.

From 11 crops to race, the Ack Ack horse Broad Brush has sired such fine runners as 2001 Grade 1 winners Include and Pompeii, 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Concern (who helped make Broad Brush the nation's top sire in 1994), Japanese star Nobo True, Grade 1 winner Schossberg, and many other graded stakes-winners.

That success at a high level of racing has helped maintain demand for Broad Brush. His fee is private, but based on the prices live-foal seasons to him have brought at auction, it is about $100,000. But that demand - partly Broad Brush's choice, it seems - has not translated into the enormous book that has become common among popular sires in recent years.

"His fertility is fine," Hernon said, "but he doesn't seem enthralled with breeding large numbers of mares."

In 2001, Broad Brush covered only 47 mares, which Hernon said is about average for the stallion. It's not average for most of Kentucky's other leading stallions, though.

Last year, the five horses ahead of Broad Brush on the general sire list covered an average of 127 mares. The stallion with the largest 2001 book was Thunder Gulch, with 216, and the top-five sire with the smallest 2001 book was Fly So Free with 92. Those numbers have become standard among major stallions in Kentucky in the last decade.

Broad Brush is out of the modest stakes-winning Hoist the Flag mare Hay Patcher, who also produced stakes winner Hay Halo. It's a solid pedigree, but not necessarily suggestive of Broad Brush's high-level success.

Trained by Dick Small, Broad Brush raced for Robert Meyerhoff, who has heavily supported the stallion with his mares. A stakes-winner at 2, Broad Brush did his best running at 3 and 4, winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita, Meadowlands Cup, and Suburban handicaps - and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Invitational.

"He gets talented, versatile horses that can get a distance of ground and often improve with age, as he did," Hernon said. "They're durable at a high level of racing, and they're sound, as he was."

Pedigree theorists may find some genetic hint about Broad Brush's success at stud. He is inbred 3 x 3 to Turn-to, and, interestingly, many of his top runners have resulted from additional inbreeding to that stallion.

But breeding Thoroughbreds is about more than theory; it's about results. And, for whatever reason, Broad Brush has been able to stay near the top of the chart by getting runners from his pamphlet-sized book.

"He is a surprising horse," Hernon acknowledged, "but the proof's in the pudding."

Online horse sales

EquineSpectrum.com, which last week announced the hiring of Dan Kelliher as its executive director, is not the only online sales service in the news this week.

Broodmares.com, which launched last year, has expanded its focus beyond female breeding stock to offer everything from stallion seasons and mares to young horses and racing stock. It's also changed its name to Starquine.com, according to Internet technology consultant Patrick Brown, who was brought on in September to help with business development.

Starquine does not conduct auctions but acts as a listing service. Currently, the site has about 340 horses posted for sale.

"We're growing our business in central Kentucky, but it's not our major market right now," Brown said. "We have a lot of horses from Florida and from the second-tier breeding states like Illinois, Indiana, Utah, and Arkansas."

Racereadysales.com is the latest online sales service to emerge. Founded by a group of consignors, the site offers previews of 2-year-olds in training who are scheduled to sell at auction.

Citing mare reproductive loss syndrome as a factor in the decline, Breeders' Cup Ltd. announced Thursday that 15,020 foals were nominated to the Breeders' Cup in 2001, down 5 percent from 2000. That marks the first decline since 1992.

The number of Kentucky foals, those most affected by MRLS, nominated fell to 7,828, down 6 percent from the 8,294 nominated in 2000.

The 2001 nominations generated $7,51 million in revenue, the third-highest amount since the program began in 1982.