04/11/2003 12:00AM

Buddy Gil can improve his sire's stature

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Eastern Echo gelding Buddy Gil, the winner of last weekend's Santa Anita Derby, certainly looks like this year's version of War Emblem. He is by a well-bred stallion who had fallen from favor and been exiled from the Bluegrass; the same scenario applied to War Emblem's sire, Our Emblem.

Buddy Gil, Eastern Echo's best son, has won three of his four starts this year, with season earnings of $668,730. Even though he bled slightly in the receiving barn after his victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, Buddy Gil is among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby and appears likely to start as one of the more respected entrants.

Buddy Gil is by the regally bred Eastern Echo, a son of Preakness and Belmont winner Damascus and the splendid Northern Dancer mare Wild Applause. This makes Eastern Echo a half-brother to 2003 graded stakes winner Yell (by A.P. Indy) and to Roar - both of whom were bred by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider - as well as a half-brother to Blare of Trumpets, who was bred by Paul Mellon's Rokeby Stables, as was Eastern Echo. When Dilschneider and Claiborne acquired Wild Applause for $1.025 million at a Rokeby dispersal of breeding stock, Eastern Echo was the young mare's primary claim to fame and a significant reason for the partnership to seek her out.

Eastern Echo was a top-class colt, and in his first season of racing he went unbeaten in three starts, the best of which was the Grade 1 Futurity Stakes at Belmont. Eastern Echo was going to be a hot prospect for the next year's classics. But because of an injury, he never raced again, and instead of running in the Triple Crown series he began his stud career at 3, standing at William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm.

Considering his breeder and pedigree, it had seemed that Eastern Echo was destined for the classics. Rokeby had bred winners of all the American classics, as well as the English and Irish derbies, and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Eastern Echo's sire and both his grandsires (Sword Dancer and Northern Dancer) also won classic races. Now the stallion's son Buddy Gil has a chance to take a significant role in the Triple Crown.

Had Buddy Gil come along in Eastern Echo's first few crops, Eastern Echo might still be standing in Kentucky. His only other Grade 1 winner was the high-class juvenile Swiss Yodeler. In early 2002, when Eastern Echo had begun to fade in commercial appeal, he was acquired by a syndicate of Maryland breeders.

"The Maryland Stallion Station, a group of local investors, now owns a majority interest in him," said Don Litz, a Maryland breeder and shareholder in the horse. "We bought up a bunch of shares to gain a controlling interest in Eastern Echo and move him here. The Farishes still have five to seven shares, along with a few other shareholders."

Although he had been lost in the shuffle of the competitive Kentucky breeding market, Eastern Echo, said Litz, "is a beautifully bred horse who is physically imposing and very correct. Bringing him to Maryland, we wanted to offer breeders a horse with a solid pedigree and production statistics and also to offer the Damascus line to people. Although the Damascus line can breed too much size and bone, Eastern Echo has the balance and quality of a Northern Dancer, a really nice type of horse."

Eastern Echo now stands at Shamrock Farm, and Litz said that "we brought him in at $3,000 because we got a late start and wanted to get him off strongly." The horse was standing for the same fee for 2003, he said, but "Buddy Gil has made a lot of difference to Eastern Echo's year, and the last 15 mares I've signed have been much better quality."

As a result, the stallion is now available at $5,000, and "if a miracle happens," Litz said, "who knows" what the horse could stand for next year.

Buddy Gil's success is all the more enjoyable for his breeder, Donnie McFadden, because he still owns a piece of the horse. Bred in Kentucky by McFadden and his wife, Judy, in the name of their Billingsley Creek Ranch, Buddy Gil races for the five-handed partnership of McFadden, Desperado Stables (Scott Guenther), Merrill Stables (Charles Johnson), Rogers Severson, and Tom Schriber.

McFadden also bred Buddy Gil's first two dams, stakes-placed Really Rising (by For Really) and stakes winner Rising Writer (by Staff Writer). Both were Idaho-breds, as Billingsley Creek Ranch is headquartered there.

Although Rising Writer died in 1998, the McFaddens still own Really Rising. As part of a circular sequence of events, they sold the mare as a yearling for $13,000 at the Washington Breeders Association December mixed sale, and Really Rising raced with some success (a stakes placing and $30,162 in earnings) for a partnership.

The partners consigned her to the Barretts January mixed sale in 1998, when she went unsold for $10,000. Then the mare changed hands privately and was resold in the Adena Springs consignment at the 1998 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale. At the time, Really Rising was carrying her first foal to the cover of the Adena Springs stallion Birdonawire. Jon Starr bought her for $6,000, and the mare produced her first foal, a chestnut filly, the next spring for Billingsley Creek.

Buddy Gil is his dam's second foal, and she has a 2-year-old colt named Och Tamale (by Caller I.D.), a yearling filly named Reagle Mary (by Afternoon Deelites), and a filly of 2003 by Eastern Echo's son Swiss Yodeler.