04/02/2004 12:00AM

Can't write him off

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Having shaken the dust of Dubai off his heels, Pleasantly Perfect now has won the two richest dirt races in the world: the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic. There is no doubt that he is a very good horse at 10 furlongs, and he showed the versatility in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday to lie close to the pace and then duel head and head with Medaglia d'Oro for about the last five-sixteenths of a mile.

He now has premium racing credentials and earnings of nearly $6.4 million, but Pleasantly Perfect also was an exceptional yearling, having brought $725,000 at the Keeneland September sale in 1999.

He would appear to be a slam dunk as a stallion prospect.

A decade ago, that would have been so. Today, however, the greatest obstacle that Pleasantly Perfect has to overcome is the general perception among breeders that sons of his sire, Pleasant Colony, are duds.

This may seem surprising to those outside the Thoroughbred breeding community, because Pleasant Colony has been the most reliable and successful representative of the Ribot male line through that great champion's son His Majesty. Pleasant Colony, a champion and multiple classic winner himself, has sired winners at the highest level around the world. But to date, none of his sons has had similar success.

Breeders, and more especially the buyers of yearlings and 2-year-olds, take this to heart.

For instance, St. Jovite, winner of the Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, produced yearlings who sold well but have not performed to expectations. Likewise, Belmont Stakes winner Colonial Affair and Californian Stakes winner Roanoke were initially accepted by yearling buyers until they failed to get quick racers.

Before his sale to Japanese interests in 1999, Colonial Affair stood at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. Michael Hernon, who markets the seasons and shares in the farms' stallions, assessed the situation: "The market demands stallions that beget precocious 2-year-olds, and whilst Colonial Affair was a classic winner, his stamina-laden pedigree did not allow him to fulfill expectations in that regard. So, when we had the approach from an overseas bidder for the horse, the syndicate voted to accept the offer."

Even more than the preceding trio, the son of Pleasant Colony who carried the highest expectations at stud was champion Pleasant Tap. A thoroughly versatile and tough horse, Pleasant Tap raced from 2 through 5, earning $2.7 million. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban at 10 furlongs, as well as the Malibu at seven furlongs. He ran second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the Breeders' Cup Sprint, and Metropolitan Handicap, and was third in the Kentucky Derby and Santa Anita Handicap. A well-rounded animal, Pleasant Tap is also good-looking. The horse was well supported in his initial crops, but he, too, fell from favor in the sales market.

Pleasant Tap, however, cannot be counted a failure by any means. From his first four crops, he sired five stakes winners in each crop. His percentage of stakes winners to foals from those crops varied between 10 and 15 percent, which is quite good.

Pleasant Tap's offspring earned most of their successes as they matured, however. And it was not until the stallion's fifth crop that he sired a Grade 1 winner at 2, Hollywood Starlet winner I Believe in You.

Looking at the overall stud record, then, it might be a little early to write off all sons of Pleasant Colony, especially considering that only four or five of Pleasant Colony's sons had significant opportunities to make it as stallions.

Despite the market bias against them, there are still several young sons of Pleasant Colony with a chance to make a mark at stud. These include the Grade 1 winners Behrens, whose first foals will race in 2004, and Forbidden Apple, who entered stud at Arthur Appleton's Bridlewood Farm in Florida this year.

Behrens stands at historic Darby Dan Farm, which also stood the horse's great-grandsire Ribot and grandsire His Majesty. Davant Latham handles much of the sales of stallion seasons for Darby Dan, and he posed the quandary that breeders find themselves in regarding this line. He said, "I think if you want a two-turn horse like Pleasantly Perfect and the horse who won the Japan Cup Dirt [Tap Dance City, by Pleasant Tap], where else are you going to go? Since there aren't many sources of Roberto available now, the Pleasant Colony stock is the most reliable source of stamina. Pleasant Tap has proven himself a very useful type of stallion, and Behrens has the opportunity to do the same. Behrens is very attractive for a Pleasant Colony, and that quality might lend itself to earlier performance than some are expecting. Interestingly, Behrens is breeding his largest book ever this year."

For breeders, especially home breeders, the Pleasant Colony horses probably do represent good value. This is especially so since the biggest purses are for races at a mile and up. As a result, for those breeders using a rational approach to mating their mares and to assessing the compatibility of mares that they send to these stallions, the Pleasant Colonys are not a forlorn hope at the racetrack, regardless of their reception in the sales ring.