04/12/2007 11:00PM

Control System helps breeder weather storm


Veterinarian Renee Nodine and her husband, Alex Levengood, have weathered several storms at Horse Shoe Valley Equine, which they established in fall 2003 in Annville, Pa.

The first was an actual tornado, which touched down at their Thoroughbred nursery near the famous chocolate town of Hershey during summer 2004. The tornado wreaked havoc on fences and the exterior of their house, but miraculously spared the barn housing their horses. Everyone emerged safely, including future graded stakes winner Control System, who was a weanling at the time.

By the following spring, however, Nodine was ready to call it quits in the breeding business. With one disappointment after another - every mare lost her foal that year at Horse Shoe Valley - and mounting bills, she reached a low point. In an effort to stay afloat, Nodine, who makes rounds every day at Penn National, contacted local owners Thomas McClay and Harry Nye, for whom she had done vet work at the track, and asked if they'd be interested in buying her crop of yearlings - two fillies by Lion Hearted.

McClay and Nye were indeed interested. The first of those fillies to start was the undefeated 3-year-old Control System, who went on to win the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct in her stakes debut March 24.

The business relationship between McClay and Nye and Horse Shoe Valley Equine has grown since and includes a couple of broodmares and young horses owned in partnership. Nodine, who was encouraged by other friends to remain in the business two years ago, expects to have six foals born this year.

However, one mare will now be shipped to Kentucky to foal. Risk Aversion (by Grindstone), the 9-year-old dam of Control System who is due April 20 to the first-year Maryland sire Gators N Bears, was sold this past week to Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville. Conditions of the sale, which resulted in a substantial windfall for Horse Shoe Valley, have Nodine getting the 2007 foal.

Nodine had owned Risk Aversion since purchasing her privately in fall 2002. After a dismal racing career in which the mare made four starts and never finished better than sixth, Risk Aversion had an uncertain future until Nodine took her home. In spring 2003, Risk Aversion was sent to the court of the young Storm Cat sire Lion Hearted, who stands at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md. The mare's first foal was Control System.

It was suggested to Nodine that she breed her mares to the promising Lion Hearted, a graded-stakes-placed sprinter out of Grade 1 winner Cadillacing. The stallion's first crop reached the races in 2004 in stellar fashion - his first winner, Chocolate Brown, took a stakes race in her second start at Belmont in June of that year.

Nodine sent her mare Magical Maid to Lion Hearted in 2002. The foal from that mating, named Defiant Maid, races in the name of Levengood and finished third in the 2006 Wonders Delight Stakes at Penn National. She most recently recorded her fourth victory from nine starts in allowance company April 10 at Philadelphia Park.

Magical Maid, who is in foal to Lion Hearted and will be bred back to the stallion, is also the dam of F Three, the other filly purchased by McClay and Nye in the package deal. Named for the tornado that struck the farm, F Three has yet to start but had been a workmate with Control System until she bucked shins.

Nodine, who runs Horse Shoe Valley with her husband and stepchildren Sarah, 19, and Clayton, 16, has a yearling Lite the Fuse colt out of Risk Aversion. The mare's only other foal, a colt by Jazz Club, was stillborn in 2005. Other mares in residence at Horse Shoe Valley Equine are stakes winners Chilling Prospect and Merryland Missy, purchased over the past two years at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale, and in foal to Harlan's Holiday and Malibu Moon, respectively; Romantic Book, a daughter of Not for Love in foal to Gators N Bears; and Wicked Kris (by Kris S.), who produced an Out of Place foal this year and is being bred back to Belong to Me.

Nodine, who received sizable Pennsylvania Breeders Fund bonuses when Control System won her first two starts, both at Philadelphia Park, had the opportunity to lead the filly into the winner's circle following the Cicada victory.

"To me, it was like a scene from the 'Dreamer' movie," Nodine said. "These horses are our business and our life."