06/19/2003 11:00PM

Bronze Route shows promise in her debut

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - This story may sound familiar.

Jerry and Barbara Dutton and partner Vladimir Popovich own a promising 2-year-old filly that catches the eye of the Team Valor syndicate. A private deal is completed, and the filly excels for her new owners and trainer, Jenine Sahadi.

Those were the circumstances three years ago when Golden Ballet changed hands. She eventually won five stakes races for Team Valor and partners.

This year, all of the participants have taken the same role with Bronze Route, a half-sister to Golden Ballet.

Thursday at Hollywood Park, Bronze Route made her career debut with a hard-fought win in a five-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old California-bred fillies. She marked the first winner for the young sire Mud Route, who stands at Rick Taylor's Special T Thoroughbreds in Temecula, Calif.

While Golden Ballet had made four starts before she was purchased, Bronze Route was bought late last winter by Team Valor, Gary Barber, and the Green Lantern Stable when she was just beginning serious training.

Considering the style of her maiden win, Bronze Route may have a future as promising as her older half-sister.

Breaking from the outside of a field of nine, she disputed the pace while racing wide on turn, took the lead under jockey Patrick Valenzuela in midstretch, and won by a length over Champ's Rocket, who is trained by Jerry Dutton. The final time of 59.54 seconds for five furlongs was not particularly fast, but the style of Bronze Route's victory was noteworthy.

"We didn't expect this," said Barry Irwin, the president of the Team Valor partnership. "We would have been happy if she was third and finishing. She'll be better going longer."

The Duttons and Popovich bred and raced Golden Ballet in early 2000, starting her career in two-furlong races at Santa Anita. After she won the Nursery Stakes in May 2000, Golden Ballet was sold to Team Valor and Bill Heiligbrodt. She raced for a year for her new owners, and her wins included the 2001 Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks.

Golden Ballet suffered an injury in the spring of 2001 and retired with earnings of $732,145. She was later sold for $1.6 million at Keeneland to Aaron and Marie Jones. Earlier this year, Golden Ballet produced a colt by Saint Ballado.

Bronze Route is from the first crop sired by Mud Route, a winner of 6 of 14 starts and $672,040. Lightly raced at 3 because of an injury that kept him out of the spring classics, Mud Route was best at 4 in 1998, the season he won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park and the Grade 3 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

This year, Mud Route, 9, was bred to 65 mares, Taylor said. This is his fourth year at stud, and first since the yearling sales that featured his first crop. Taylor said the book size has exceeded his expectation.

"He had the biggest book of his life," Taylor said. "In California that's a huge book for a fourth year stallion. I really expected 30 this year."

Bronze Route was in training with Jerry Dutton earlier this year when Taylor told Jeff Siegel, the syndicated handicapper and executive with Team Valor, about the promising filly.

"I said, 'I'm going to give Jerry a visit,'" Siegel said.

A private deal was completed and Bronze Route joined Sahadi's stable in March.

"The price they offered, there was no question" about a sale, Barbara Dutton said.

"We paid for this one what we paid for Golden Ballet and this one hadn't run," Irwin said.

The Duttons and Popovich no longer own Golden Jewel Box, the dam of Bronze Route and Golden Ballet. Purchased for $6,000 at Barretts in 1996, Golden Jewel Box was sold at Keeneland in November 2001 to Gentry-Gaines Thoroughbreds for $625,000.