06/14/2004 12:00AM

Claiborne buys into Strong Hope


Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., has privately purchased an interest in the breeding rights to Grade 2 winner Strong Hope and will stand the colt at the end of his racing career, the farm announced Monday. The 4-year-old colt's owners, Eugene and Laura Melnyk, plan to race him for the rest of the season before retiring him to Claiborne for the 2005 season.

Strong Hope did not race at 2 but won five of his seven starts as a 3-year-old in 2003, most notably the Jim Dandy- in which he beat the Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker, by a neck- and the Dwyer Stakes. Both races were Grade 2 contests. He ran third in the Travers behind Ten Most Wanted and Peace Rules.

In three starts so far this season, Strong Hope won a Gulfstream Park allowance by 9 3/4 lengths, then placed in the Carter Handicap and was third in the Met Mile, both Grade 1's won by Pico Central.