11/02/2001 12:00AM

The Coolmore production line


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Coolmore likes a family, the global powerhouse wants to acquire all of the family it can find. And that, in essence, is how Coolmore came to own Johannesburg, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and now unbeaten in seven starts.

The handsome bay is by the Ashford stallion Hennessy and is out of the Ogygian mare Myth. And two factors were central to Coolmore's interest in Johannesburg when he came to the sales as a yearling. First, as with most any top prospect these days, Coolmore always has an eye for a likely Storm Cat, and second, they are very high on descendants of the Mr. Prospector mare Yarn.

Coolmore's American stud, Ashford, stands Tale of the Cat, a handsome and very fast son of Storm Cat and Yarn. Yarn is also dam of the Boundary colt Minardi, a Group 1 winner who was the highweighted colt in England and Ireland last season.

So, when Ashview Farm and Jayeff B Stable consigned Yarn's daughter Myth to the Keeneland November sale in 1999, Coolmore was intrigued. David Nagle's Barronstown Stud signed the ticket for the bay mare, and she brought $200,000 even though she was barren at the time of sale.

An attractive bay, Myth has a very good shoulder and a good hindquarter. She has good feet and balance and is a strong, wide-bodied, powerful mare. A really good type of broodmare, Yarn was followed through the ring at Keeneland November two years ago by her weanling foal, later named Johannesburg.

Chestnut Valley Farm bought the colt for $240,000 and resold him the following year at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $200,000 to Coolmore. Johannesburg was an appealing colt, with power, length, and balance. He has short cannons and a good shoulder and hindquarter.

Myth foaled a bay filly by Storm Cat this year, and it is owned in partnership by Coolmore and Barronstown. Residing at Ashford Stud, Brookside division, Myth is back in foal to Storm Cat and is due Feb. 23.

Although next season's breeding plans for the mare are still undecided, she may well go back to Storm Cat, in whom Coolmore owns several breeding rights, but it is possible she could revisit Hennessy, who is beginning to live up to the expectations held for him when he went to stud.

It would be hard to exaggerate the demand for Hennessy among breeders when this high-class son of Storm Cat was retired. A really handsome horse, Hennessy had performed with distinction on the racetrack and gave signals that he was going to be a superior stallion from the first. He was one of the most sought-after yearling sires of 1999 and 2000, with a colt from his first crop selling for $1.2 million and one from his second bringing $1.8 million. Now, he has Johannesburg from his second North American crop.

Bred by Overbrook Farm, Hennessy went to the sales principally because farm owner W.T. Young and his advisers at Overbrook wanted to establish beyond any doubt that Storm Cat could get a top select sale yearling. Hennessy was certainly that, selling for $500,000 in 1994, when that was a very strong price for any yearling and was the highest price to that time for a Storm Cat.

Selected by Wayne Lukas for Bob and Beverly Lewis, Hennessy was an immediate success for his owner and trainer, winning the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 2 Sapling and Hollywood Juvenile Championship. The colt's looks translated perfectly into racing performance. He was strong and lengthy, and he could carry his speed a mile or more in top company.

Hennessy's last top effort came when he was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile six years ago. He looked like the winner until Unbridled's Song came along and stunned his competition with a courageous effort from such a lightly raced colt.

Although great things were expected of both Hennessy and Unbridled's Song at 3, only Unbridled's Song delivered on them. Hennessy was injured and never ran again.

Eventually, the colt was sold to Coolmore and started on the international shuttle program that has allowed Coolmore to acquire top stallion prospects and make money with them when other operations flounder. Hennessy has shuttled each year to the Southern Hemisphere, spent the 2001 Northern Hemisphere covering season at the East Stud in Japan, and he will return to Ashford from Coolmore Australia sometime around Christmas.

After Johannesburg's victory at Belmont, Hennessy is the leading sire of juveniles, and he may return from his lengthy trip abroad to find himself a leading sire with an Eclipse Award winner to carry his banner.