08/08/2002 11:00PM

A Deerhound-sired exacta for Harris


William R. Harris is in his fifth decade of breeding Thoroughbreds, but the Dave's Friend Stakes at Laurel Park on Aug. 3 was a first for the 74-year-old breeder.

Sassy Hound and Deer Run, both 5-year-old sons of former Maryland sire Deerhound bred by Harris, drew off from the others in the six-furlong Dave's Friend, with Sassy Hound finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of the fast-closing Deer Run. It was more than four lengths back to race favorite Rusty Spur. The final time was a very quick 1:09.34.

The outcome was sweet for Harris, but could have been much sweeter had the results been reversed. Harris has campaigned Deer Run throughout his career, but Sassy Hound was claimed from Harris in his first start as a 3-year-old on Jan. 6, 2000, and has run for Toby Roth ever since.

Both these sons of Deerhound have been models of consistency. Trained by Bowie-based Christopher Grove, Deer Run has four wins and three seconds in his last nine starts, his victories including Pimlico's Fire Plug Stakes in April. Deer Run's two starts before the Dave's Friend were fourth-place finishes in the Wilmington Handicap and Philadelphia Park Breeders' Cup Handicap, a Grade 3. He finished within three lengths of the winner in both races. From a total of 17 career starts, Deer Run has earned $149,760.

Sassy Hound has put together an even more impressive career, winning 13 of his 25 starts with three seconds and four thirds. Since being sent to trainer Ben Feliciano Jr. a little over a year ago, the gelding has competed at seven different tracks, winning the Rapid Transit Stakes on Claiming Crown day at Canterbury Downs, an allowance at Saratoga, the Wilmington Handicap at Delaware Park, and an allowance at Pimlico. He also finished third in the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Laurel Park and fourth in Aqueduct's Gravesend Handicap, a Grade 3. Sassy Hound entered the Dave's Friend off a second-place finish in an allowance race at Delaware Park. His most recent victory pushed his career earnings to $393,640.

A Virginia resident, Harris is a longtime supporter of Maryland stallions. He has been a regular client of Audrey and Allen Murray since the early 1990's and regularly foals his mares at the Murrays' Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md.

Harris has owned a number of shares in Murmur stallions, from top Maryland sire Norquestor to, most recently, Our Emblem, who made headlines when he was sold this past spring for $10.1 million and has since returned to Kentucky.

Harris has three mares in foal to Our Emblem, including Sassy Sue (by Invincible Dooley), the dam of Sassy Hound.

Deerhound (by Danzig) was another stallion Harris supported heavily at Murmur. Sassy Sue, who produced stakes winner Invincible Sue as her first foal, has had eight foals of racing age, three by Deerhound; Deer Run's dam, the Thirty Eight Paces mare Thirty Eight Steps, had one other foal registered foal by the stallion. All of the Deerhound foals out of the two mares are winners.

Deerhound was sold to Kentucky interests following the championship season of his Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Countess Diana in 1997.

Harris owned a large band of broodmares for many years until illness forced him to cut back. The 11 mares he currently owns include Thirty Eight Steps, whose most recent foal is a yearling colt by Murmur's Deputy Minister stallion Yarrow Brae.

Harris also has Deer Run's stakes-winning half-sister Norstep (by Norquestor), who has had foals by Yarrow Brae the past three seasons. Stakes winner and producer Amanti, Deer Run's third dam, also produced a Yarrow Brae filly this year.

Harris, who lives about 30 miles from Richmond, Va., doesn't often go to the Maryland tracks to see his horses run; instead he slips into a Virginia offtrack betting site to watch the races. Deer Run's planned start on Sept. 21 in the Maryland Million Sprint, however, might entice the longtime breeder to make the trip to the state where so many of his horses make their home.