02/06/2009 1:00AM

Chases strike Grade 1 gold for third time


LEXINGTON, Ky. - With his victory in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap last Saturday, Albertus Maximus confirmed his victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and has claimed a high place among American dirt runners for the 2009 racing season.

The colt's breeders, Brandon and Marianne Chase, have previously campaigned Irgun and Race the Wild Wind, respective winners of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and Grade 1 Santa Maria.

Race the Wild Wind is especially significant because that daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo is the second dam of Albertus Maximus.

The Chases sent Race the Wild Wind to leading sire Forty Niner in 1993 after she had become a Grade 1 winner early in the season, and the result of that mating was a chestnut filly named Chasethewildwind.

A winner in 3 of 9 starts, Chasethewildwind earned $95,300 and was a quality athlete. She was retired to stud without winning black type, however, but has been a revelation as a broodmare.

Her best performer to date is Albertus Maximus. A Feb. 24 foal, Albertus Maximus is the third foal of his dam and has shown the continued progress and improvement expected from a son of Albert the Great, a Grade 1 stakes winner of more than $3 million.

After producing Chasethewildwind, Race the Wild Wind produced a pair of winners, then struck gold with successive matings to the exceptional Northern Dancer stallion Nureyev. The first Nureyev colt out of the mare brought $1.5 million as a foal at the Keeneland November sale in 1998. Named King Charlemagne, the colt was worth the price, winning 5 of 6 starts, including the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest and three events at the Group 3 level.

The mare's next foal was English group winner Meshaheer, who brought $425,000 at the 1999 Keeneland November sale. A five-time winner, Meshaheer won the Group 3 July Stakes at 2 and placed in the Group 1 Prix Morny.

Race the Wild Wind has a yearling filly by Sadler's Wells.

At about the same time that Race the Wild Wind was scoring so well with matings to Nureyev, her first foal, Chasethewildwind, was beginning her life as a broodmare.

Chasethewildwind's first foal was Chasethegold, a chestnut filly by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold. Chasethegold ran second in the Grade 3 Ken Maddy Handicap and earned $154,945 during her racing career.

Chasethewildwind lost her second foal, to the cover of Saint Ballado, in the first year of the mare reproductive loss syndrome in 2001, and then she was barren to Gentlemen.

In 2003, the mare produced a colt by the Nureyev stallion Stravinsky that was unbeaten in two starts, and produced Albertus Maximus in 2004.

Chasethewildwind has a 2-year-old by Rock Hard Ten in training. Chasethewildwind has a yearling colt by Malibu Moon, is in foal to First Samurai (due March 24), and will be bred back to Giant's Causeway.

The Chases keep their North American mares at the Clovelly Farm of Robin Scully on Paris Pike north of Lexington. Clovelly has been in operation for a half-century and has bred and raised such stars as Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect and Ancient Regime, a Group 1 winner in France.

The Chases have only three Kentucky broodmares, but that select group includes Chasethewildwind and her half-sister Chasetheragingwind (by Dayjur), who has an Indian Charlie yearling filly and was bred to Songandaprayer.

Albertus Maximus was foaled and raised at Clovelly before being sent to Lexington-based trainer Charlie Lopresti for breaking and early conditioning.

He has been breaking horses for the Chases for 20 years, and they were "some of the first people that I started horses for," Lopresti said.

Lopresti recalled that "we broke Albertus Maximus, but he didn't go to the track with me till the mid-summer of his 2-year-old year, and he didn't go to California till fall.

"He was a big, strong colt who was immature. That's why we didn't sell him as a yearling. But we always thought he was pretty special. After we got him on the track and started breezing, everything came real easy to him, and when I first sent him a two-minute lick, it looked like he was just galloping."

As a result of the colt's calm, sensible attitude and his obvious athletic potential, Lopresti and the Chases "always liked Albertus Maximus. You know the ones you think are going to be good, and as we got further down the road, we could tell he was a pretty special sort of horse. That's what I told Gary Mandella, and once he breezed the colt, he agreed."

Now, Albertus Maximus is one of the top-rated older horses in the country.

His sire, Albert the Great, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was third in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Classic. Albert the Great, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin, stood at Three Chimneys Farm through the 2007 breeding season and moved to Pin Oak Lane Farm in Pennsylvania in 2008. His fee is $3,500. The stallion's other Grade 1 winner is Wood Memorial winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, who will cover his first mares at Darby Dan Farm later this month.