01/24/2002 12:00AM

Crash Course adds another feather to Robinson's cap


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The victory of Crash Course in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park last weekend was another success for the racing and breeding program developed by J. Mack Robinson. A successful international businessman based in Atlanta, Robinson became involved in racing when he was introduced to John A. Bell III, the founder of Jonabell Farm in Kentucky, and began a prosperous relationship.

Robinson's interests have grown in the sport, and he owns Rosewood Plantation in Thomasville, Ga., has a string of horses in training at the major tracks, and boards mares at Jonabell.

In all, Robinson has about 100 horses, counting breeding stock and racers. His farm manager and trainer in Georgia is Tim Frommer, who moved to Thomasville from Aiken, S.C.

Frommer said, "Mr. Robinson has developed a really good operation here. We send the mares to Kentucky for breeding, but we break the young horses here on the farm and have a wonderful five-eighths-mile track. The training barn and track are run pretty much like they would be at the races, although we do have to do more planning here to make sure the young horses see enough and hear enough" to be mentally ready for the racetrack. "It's so quiet here," he said.

With all these elements in place, Robinson should be having some success, and he is. His daughter, Jill, purchased Cherokee Run at auction and raced him successfully, with the horse's most important victory coming in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Elected champion sprinter, the horse went to stud at Jonabell, where he sired champion Chilukki in his first crop. For his own account, Robinson owns shares in major stallions and has significant interests in several sires, including Old Trieste and Holy Bull, the sire of Crash Course.

Horse of the Year in 1994, when he won the Metropolitan Handicap, Travers, Haskell, Woodward, Florida Derby, Blue Grass, and Dwyer, Holy Bull also has sired a champion, Macho Uno, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at 2 and ran a good fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic last year.

By Great Above out of the Al Hattab mare Sharon Brown, Holy Bull did not have a proven sire's pedigree when he went to stud, but he did have an absolutely first-class race record. And the big gray has done well with his first crops, getting such graded stakes winners as Confessional, Turnofthecentury, and Holywood Picture. Frommer noted that "we haven't seen the best of his produce yet. We have a half-dozen yearlings and four 2-year-olds by Holy Bull, and we have a 2-year-old colt by Holy Bull who's as good as anything on the farm, and we have a pretty good crop."

A tall, rangy horse who had immense speed and stayed far better than his pedigree suggested he might, Holy Bull has tended to sire individuals rather like himself, with scope and size. Although many have good speed, they aren't usually specialist sprinters.

Crash Course has shown his best form at distances past a mile and won the Mac Diarmida at 11 furlongs on turf. Like several other sons and daughters by Holy Bull, Crash Course has very good form on turf, which would surprise some readers of Holy Bull's past performances. Holy Bull never ran on turf, but trainer Jimmy Croll has stated several times that he thought Holy Bull would have made a great turf runner.

Croll trains Crash Course, and the trainer's familiarity with the sire may have something to do with placing Crash Course where he has proven most effective. In addition to Croll's practical wisdom, Crash Course's pedigree also has ties to turf racing.

Crash Course is out of the stakes-winning mare Track Gossip, a daughter of Shahrastani. Shahrastani won the English Derby at 12 furlongs on turf and is by the English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, a son of Northern Dancer. All these factors would suggest that Crash Course should prosper with turf racing. And so he has.

He has stayed sound, and in addition to the Mac Diarmida, Crash Course has won the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Handicap, has run second in the Grade 2 Jersey Derby, and was third in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker and Oceanport Handicaps.

He is the most successful foal to date out of his dam, who won the Bal Harbour Stakes at Hialeah. Track Gossip has a yearling colt by Cherokee Run and was barren for 2002. She will be bred to Point Given this spring. Frommer said that Track Gossip "has a little size to her. Her foals are nice but not big strapping types. Crash Course is pretty typical of what she's given us," tall but not too heavy-bodied.