07/25/2002 11:00PM

Broodmare's tale shows the pitfalls of business

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In a little more than four weeks, local breeders will send their homebred yearlings through the Woodbine sales ring, the culmination of two and a half years of planning and praying.

Luck plays an important part in breeding a mare and raising a foal, but Wait for Silence and her owner, Reade Baker, didn't have any from the moment the filly retired from racing.

Wait for Silence, a flashy chestnut foal of 1995, was the first homebred stakes-winning filly raced by Baker and his wife, Janis Maine. A daughter of Salt Lake, Wait for Silence was the second foal of Off the Record, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Proper Evidence, who was the champion older mare in Canada in 1989.

As a 2-year-old, Wait for Silence won the Ontario Lassie Stakes at Woodbine and was second in the White Lace Stakes at Detroit Race Course.

After starting her eight times as a 3-year-old, Baker retired Wait for Silence and made plans to send the filly to New York to be bred to Cure the Blues in the spring of 1999.

It was a costly exercise to van the filly to the obscure town of Ithaca, N.Y., particularly when Cure the Blues died the day before she was to be bred. Baker quickly made alternate arrangements for his mare.

"As soon as I could get a van out of there, I shipped her to Florida to be bred to Tactical Advantage," Baker said. "She was bred but wasn't ultra-sounded a second time, and I wasn't told about it."

Baker brought Wait for Silence back to Ontario, but in October, she aborted twins.

In February 2000, Baker plunked down $40,000 (U.S.) to breed Wait for Silence to the red-hot Kentucky stallion Saint Ballado.

"I entered her in the Keeneland November sale later that year and by that time, it was announced that Saint Ballado's stud fee was going to be $125,000," Baker said.

Sales officials evaluated Wait for Silence's worth at $225,000 (U.S.), but two days before the auction she aborted because of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome.

Many more van hours and thousands of dollars later, Wait for Silence was pronounced "in foal" last spring after being bred to graded stakes winner More than Ready. But incredibly, the mare contracted strangles in Kentucky and aborted again.

Baker gave up on the American stallions and decided to breed Wait for Silence to Canadian sire Ascot Knight this spring. He had his fingers crossed after the mare was determined to be pregnant.

But on July 22, the saga of Wait for Silence came to a tragic end when she was found dead in the pasture of an Ontario farm, the victim of a lightning strike.

"It was our best mare," Baker said. "I was hoping to sell her foals."

Baker, also a top trainer on the Woodbine circuit, has bred other talented runners, including Frank Stronach's Mysteriously, graded stakes winner Brock Street and current 3-year-old stakes winner Callendars. He still owns Off the Record and a stakes placed half-sister to Wait for Silence.

But Wait for Silence, whose picture graces Baker and Maine's new home in Etobicoke, had a special place in the couple's involvement in the breeding business.

"She wasn't a real top filly, but she was a stakes-winning daughter of Salt Lake," Baker said. "She was going to build a family."