04/17/2002 11:00PM

Buddha spreads good news around


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When a horse becomes a promising Triple Crown candidate or wins a graded stakes race, many people reap the rewards. A couple of 3-year-old stakes winners have borne this out recently.

Wood Memorial winner Buddha, bred by Minnesotans Kip and Suzanne Knelman, started enhancing the value of his dam, Cahooters, back in the winter, when he first attracted attention by winning his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths and an allowance race by 9 1/2.

The Knelmans bred Buddha in Kentucky in the name of their Farfellow Farms operation, a commercial breeding program. The colt, by Unbridled's Song, was a home run for the Knelmans as a yearling, when they sold him for $250,000 through Taylor Made Sales Agency at the 2000 Keeneland September sale. He is the second highest-priced foal to date out of the Storm Cat mare Cahooters; the most expensive so far is Eishin Bridle, who sold at Keeneland's 1996 juvenile sale for $350,000.

Buddha wasn't done returning riches to his breeders. About two weeks before the Wood, the Knelmans accepted a private offer from Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds and Castleton Lyons to buy Cahooters.

"The bottom line is, you are a commercial breeder," Kip Knelman said. "What you're trying to do is breed as good a horse as you can. The ultimate owner is going to benefit, and that inevitably helps you. I'd like to think that breeding well-bred horses that run well gives us an intangible benefit when people look at our weanlings at the sales."

Incidentally, the Wood wasn't the only performance the Knelmans had to cheer about on April 13. They also bred Wild Horses, a Saint Ballado-Waltzing With Deb colt who finished second behind Private Emblem in the Arkansas Derby on the same afternoon. The Knelmans sold Wild Horses to John Fort for $80,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2000.

The current owners of the broodmare Desviacion also may be sitting on a Cahooters-style opportunity, thanks to a Grade 3 winner.

When Desviacion's Silver Ghost colt Cashel Castle won the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, he added black-type sheen to her produce record, and that could translate to a good return on investment for Margaux Farm's Steve Johnson, Mersack Farm's Ira Mersack, and Team Valor principal Barry Irwin. The three bought Desviacion, an Unreal Zeal mare, at Keeneland's 2001 November sale for just $47,000, betting that a stakes winner would probably emerge from the mare's close relatives and foals.

Cashel Castle did his part for mom in the Lafayette, and the news got even better on April 14, when Lunar Star - Desviacion's half-sister by Silver Ghost - finished second in the Lady Hallie Handicap at Sportsman's Park.

"You just take a chance, and sometimes you get lucky," Steve Johnson said of the fortuitous November purchase. "Some families are like that. They sit and sit for a while, and then, boom, everything in the pedigree comes alive."

That spells opportunity for lucky mare owners like Johnson, his partners, and the Knelmans. Not surprisingly, the partners in Desviacion have started getting calls from potential buyers, according to Irwin. The partners are considering their options, from selling privately to going to auction. In the meantime, they're sending Desviacion to visit a stallion they think might add even more catalog-page appeal: 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

No sale

Wednesday's Equine Spectrum online auction, which featured some noteworthy broodmares with close connections to Triple Crown contenders, rang up some high prices - but they didn't result in sales.

Itsoeasy, dam of Santa Anita Derby runner-up Easy Grades, got the day's top bid of $845,000 but was one of 32 offerings in the 36-horse auction that failed to reach their reserves. Of the four horses that did sell, $38,000 Che Negrita (Arg), listed as sold to Allen Burton, was the most expensive.

The auction also included six no-guarantee stallions seasons. One - a Sky Classic season Deborah Kopatz bought for $5,300 - was listed as sold.

Equine Spectrum executive director Dan Kelliher acknowledged he was disappointed with the returns but noted that interest in the fledgling online auction service has grown.

"Since January, our membership has grown significantly, from 347 to almost 500," he said. Kelliher added that the site has averaged about 10,000 to 15,000 hits a month, and from April 4 to 17 got about 180,000 hits.

A new Personal Ensign-Unbridled filly

Personal Ensign, champion older mare of 1988, produced an Unbridled filly on April 11 at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., according to Claiborne manager Gus Koch.

"She's a nice filly, the mare is taking good care of her, and they're both doing well," Koch said.

The bay filly is from the last crop Unbridled sired before his death last October, at age 14, from colic complications. She's also the only Unbridled-Personal Ensign foal around. Personal Ensign's previous matings had been to Mr. Prospector, Easy Goer, and A. P. Indy. From seven foals, Personal Ensign so far has produced three Grade 1 winners: 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag, by Easy Goer and Miner's Mark and Traditionally by Mr. Prospector. She also is the dam of Grade 1-placed Our Emblem (Mr. Prospector), whose sons Private Emblem and War Emblem are on the Derby trail.

Koch said Personal Ensign probably will be bred back this year to Claiborne's newest stallion, 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.