10/13/2005 11:00PM

Devil's Orchid regains prominence


Devil's Orchid first made local headlines 14 years ago when the Canadian-owned daughter of Devil's Bag won two graded stakes races in two months in California and New York and landed on the pages of trade magazines such as Canadian Thoroughbred.

The 18-year-old Devil's Orchid is in the news again as the dam of Unification, Darley Stud's $750,000 purchase who won the Grade 3 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 10.

Unification, one of two Woodbine stakes winners from the second crop of the stallion Dixie Union, needs one more start in Canada, which would be his third, to be eligible for a Sovereign Award. Unification is not eligible, however, for the final major 2-year-old race of the meeting, the Coronation Futurity on Nov. 6.

A jet-black Ontario-bred colt with a bright blaze, Unification was bred by Shannon Farms, owned by Laura Yates and her family from Vancouver, British Columbia.

"It's nice to have bred a horse of his caliber," said Yates, who took over ownership of Devil's Orchid with her son, Robert, when her husband, George, died 10 years ago.

The original Shannon Farms was formed in the early 1980's by George Yates, a physician, and also included Ettie Setter, her son Nev, and two other doctors, Malcolm Beckett and Alex Yarrow, in the partnership.

The team had a big score early when its $27,000 yearling purchase Count Gema led the older horse ranks in B.C. in the 1980's. Count Gema raced until he was 9, won 19 of 61 starts, 14 stakes races, and more than $425,000.

Thanks to Count Gema, the group bought Devil's Orchid, a daughter of the stakes-winning Olden Times mare Cast the Die, for $30,000 at the 1988 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Trained by Joe Walls, Devil's Orchid won her maiden in her second career start in January 1990 at Santa Anita, defeating subsequent Grade 1 winner Hail Atlantis.

When Walls went back to Vancouver to train, Richard Mandella was hired to take over Devil's Orchid.

As a 3-year-old, Devil's Orchid was a minor stakes winner, but the following winter she became a Grade 1 winner, the first for her sire, in the Santa Monica Handicap. Later that season, she won Aqueduct's Grade 2 Distaff and Bed o' Roses handicaps.

Devil's Orchid retired following a second-place finish in the 1993 Santa Monica. She won 10 of 23 starts and more than $604,000.

Bred to the very best stallions, Devil's Orchid did not produce a winner from her first four foals. Two of them, Orchid's Devil, by Forty Niner, and Recreation, by Storm Cat, stand stud at Road's End Farm in Langley, B.C.

The Shannon group attempted to sell the mare, carrying Recreation, at auction, but she didn't meet the reserve.

Yates bought out his other partners and then watched the mare's fifth foal, Mountain Orchid, become a stakes winner in Ontario.

Laura Yates keeps Devil's Orchid at Mike Carroll's Grandview Farm in Bellewood, Ontario.

Unification, the mare's ninth foal, was foaled and raised by Carroll, a former broodmare manager for Windfields Farm who has owned the 100-acre Grandview for 15 years.

"He was always a good-looking colt with a lot of presence," said Carroll.

Devil's Orchid has a yearling filly by Came Home that the Yates family will keep to race and a weanling filly by Smoke Glacken. She could go back to Dixie Union next spring.

The Yates family and Carroll make an annual trip to the Breeders' Cup each year, in remembrance of George Yates, and hope that they might see their homebred colt in the Juvenile.

"That would be exciting. I would be so happy to see him there," said Yates.