03/01/2002 1:00AM

Claiborne in (breezing out)

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Fasig-Tipton Calder sale on Feb. 26 featured two horses from a new 2-year-old seller: the Hancock family's famed Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.

Claiborne owner Seth Hancock has been outspoken in his opposition to the blazing eighth- and quarter-mile workouts that have become common at juvenile sales, which he believes put unnecessary pressure on the horses. So when Claiborne brought its two horses here to sell through Kip Elser's Kirkwood agency, Claiborne announced that neither would breeze. Both horses galloped at the under-tack shows.

The first, a Coronado's Quest colt out of a half-sister to Mr. Greeley, sold to F. Eugene "Fitz" Dixon for $100,000; the other, a Tale of the Cat colt out of a half-sister to Forest Camp, scratched from the sale.

"I don't know whether it compromised the price," Dell Hancock, Seth's sister, said of the gallop-only policy after the Coronado's Quest colt sold. "But I know I'd rather see how a horse does something rather than just the time he gets. The colt galloped just fine. We believe in this, and we're sticking to our guns."

Claiborne, through Kirkwood's agency, also has entered one horse - a Danzig filly out of Palangana (His Majesty), a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Wertheimer - at the March 5 Barretts select 2-year-old sale in California. Hancock said Claiborne also will offer a couple of 2-year-olds at Keeneland's select juvenile sale in April.

"They've been doing things their way for a long time, and they've been very successful," Elser said of the Claiborne program, "so I'm just along for the ride. Claiborne runs 2-year-olds and will even sometimes race their 2-year-olds at Keeneland in April. But they start two-minute licks in the middle of February, and they start breezing in the middle of March, and that's the way they do things.

"I've gotten a very positive response from a broad range of people who have come to look at their horses," Elser added, "and I don't think we'll be penalized in the sale ring" for not breezing.

And now, from Japan . . .

Elser had another unusual lot in his Calder consignment. Hip No. 81, a colt by 2001's leading general sire Thunder Gulch out of Hawk Beauty, was the only Japanese-bred juvenile in the auction.

His sellers bought the colt back at $190,000 and probably will race him. But there may be more Japanese horses to come at American juvenile sales in the future.

"We thought we'd bring him over here, because obviously Thunder Gulch, who stood in Japan for a year, had a good year last year," said Lexington bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins, who is retained by the colt's owner, Dick Colton.

Colton, a New Orleans resident in the shipping business, bought the colt privately in Japan. Colton, Collins, and horseman Harry Sweeney, who owns Paca Paca Farm on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, came up with the plan to try the North American juvenile market.

"You never get anywhere if you don't keep trying new things," Collins said. "The only problem is that the horses shipped from Japan tend to get here a little later than the other sales horses. The Thunder Gulch got to [Elser] in October, so he was a little behind the others."

Sweeney gave the colt his early preparation in Japan before sending him on to Elser's Kirkwood operation.

"It is quite costly," Collins said of the shipping charges, which he estimated at $15,000 to $20,000 per horse for the trip from Japan to America. "This is never going to be a bulk business! But we are committed to giving American-Japanese business a try."

Barretts next for juvenile sales

The select juvenile sale season, which began in early February with the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's select auction at Calder, now heads for Barretts in Pomona, Calif.

The Barretts auction, a one-day sale slated for Tuesday, will have its final under-tack show Sunday at Fairplex, starting at 10:30 a.m.

The sale, which produced Grade 1 winner Officer, has cataloged 166 lots this year. Among them is Officer's full brother, a Bertrando-St. Helens Shadow colt offered by River Edge Farm, agent, and already named And a Gentleman.

The Barretts sale gets underway at 2 p.m. at Fairplex's Hinds Pavilion in Pomona.