05/07/2008 11:00PM

Death of Terlingua marks end of an era

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thirty years ago, Terlingua started the hearts of Secretariat's legion of fans beating with the hope that their champion was breeding on as he had raced. Terlingua - fierce and fast daughter of His Chestnut Perfection and Crimson Saint - died this week at age 32 and was buried at Overbrook Farm, where she spent almost the entirety of her broodmare career.

A foal of 1976, Terlingua was not quite the first stakes winner for her sire Secretariat. She came in his second crop, but she was the first among his foals of the succeeding generation to suggest that perhaps Secretariat had managed to reproduce the many qualities that made him great.

Overall, that did not prove to be the case. Secretariat sired a wide variety of foals, rather than a generally homogenous group, and the word around the farms was not all positive when the champion's offspring began to arrive and begin their progress toward racing.

While Secretariat's first crop included Group 1 winner Dactylographer, the results from the second were much better. In addition to Terlingua, there was a second top-class juvenile in the crop of 1976, a colt named General Assembly.

Both offspring of Secretariat were the leaders of their sex and age 30 years ago in the summer of 1978.

General Assembly won the Hopeful, and yet, if anything, Terlingua was more highly regarded than the colt.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had selected Terlingua at auction at the Keeneland July sale and purchased her for $275,000 for the partnership of Barry Beal and L.R. French Jr. Terlingua had the type of body - blocky and strongly muscled - that became identified as the type that Lukas purchased during his early years as a leading trainer.

And Terlingua did not let him down on the racetrack. She began by winning the Nursery, the Hollywood Lassie, the Hollywood Juvenile Championship over colts, and the Del Mar Debutante.

Then her championship opportunity fizzled with a second in the Alcibiades and a third in the Frizette, and General Assembly ran into a permanent obstacle to his career named Spectacular Bid.

Combined, however, General Assembly and Terlingua made Secretariat the leading sire of

2-year-olds in 1978, and they continued on well at 3, like most of Secretariat's offspring. Only Spectacular Bid kept General Assembly from winning the Kentucky Derby, and Terlingua was so highly regarded early in the year that Lukas started her against colts in the Santa Anita Derby.

The summer of 1978 through the summer of the following year formed one of the high points in the stud career of Secretariat, who did not sire his best offspring consistently enough to have championship contenders in every crop. But intermittently, the good ones did come.

In addition to Terlingua, the Triple Crown winner's top offspring included Hopeful and Travers winner General Assembly, Horse of the Year Lady's Secret, as well as the classic winner and champion Risen Star.

Relatively early in his stud career, it became apparent that Secretariat's daughters were producing well, especially when bred to Northern Dancer and his sons.

And Terlingua was an important factor in this realization, as well. The mare's second foal was Grade 1 stakes winner Storm Cat, and her third was Grade 2 stakes winner Chapel of Dreams (by Northern Dancer).

Ric Waldman, consultant to Overbrook Farm, said "Terlingua represented an era at Overbrook. In addition to being the dam of Storm Cat, she was part of a significant three-horse package that Mr. Young purchased in the early days of Overbrook. The others were Cinegita, from whom Flanders and Surfside came, and the other was Three Troikas," who won the Arc de Triomphe and produced group winner Three Angels.

Waldman recalled that "Mr. Young bought these mares to breed to Storm Bird, and to the cover of Storm Bird, Cinegita and Terlingua both made their mark by producing Storm Cat and the dam of Flanders."

Terlingua foaled her most significant racehorses early in her career, but as the dam of Storm Cat, she continued as one of the most famed and respected broodmares at Overbrook. And the farm still owns the last of Terlingua's daughters, the Boston Harbor mare Final Legacy.

Pensioned after the 2000 breeding season, Terlingua made a lasting contribution to contemporary breeding with her remarkably successful son and to the reputation of Secretariat as a broodmare sire.

Furthermore, Secretariat's daughters have produced leading sires Gone West (out of stakes winner Secrettame), A.P. Indy (out of stakes winner Weekend Surprise), and Storm Cat (Terlingua).

All these famous sons and daughters of Secretariat are gone. Terlingua lived so long that she is the final chapter among those racers and producers.