09/26/2002 11:00PM

Diamond explorer might have found equine gem


Charles Fipke's life story reads like an adventure novel and, in fact, his biography has already been written.

An Edmonton-born geologist, Fipke has been called the "Indiana Jones of mining exploration," having traveled to New Guinea, South Africa, the rain forests of the Amazon, and the Arctic tundra.

In 1991, Fipke and colleague Stewart Blusson discovered the first major diamond mine in Canada - the multi-billion-dollar Ekati mine - which is projected to produce $7 billion worth of diamonds over the next 25 years.

Fipke, who owns 10 percent of the mine, is also an avid student of Thoroughbred racing and breeding and he may have found his equine diamond in Perfect Soul, one of the contenders in the $1.5 million Canadian International at Woodbine on Sunday.

"I've always loved horses, animals, and nature," said Fipke, who has owned and bred horses since 1983. "I had horses when I was younger, growing up in Kelowna [British Columbia]."

Perfect Soul, a 4-year-old son of world class sire Sadler's Wells, has also been around the world as he was foaled in Ireland, trained in California by Fipke's close friend Bob Baffert, and is now with Roger Attfield at Woodbine.

The colt is the fifth foal from Fipke's prized mare Ball Chairman, a daughter of Secretariat from the immediate family of Canadian champion Queen Louie. Ball Chairman was purchased by Fipke in 1994 for $180,000 in foal to Dixieland Band.

"My favorite horse in the world was Secretariat," said Fipke. "And I love Northern Dancer, too. I wanted to mate the Canadian line of Northern Dancer to Secretariat."

Fipke looked at 11 Secretariat mares at the 1994 Keeneland November breeding stock sale and he and conformation expert Dana Halverson rated them.

"Ball Chairman was third by pedigree but first by conformation," said Fipke. The mare was winless in two starts but has made up for that in the breeding shed.

Her third foal, Dimontina, the Dixieland Band offspring, was a stakes-placed winner of more than $184,000.

Fipke sent Ball Chairman to Ireland to be bred to Sadler's Wells and the first product of the mating was the colt Not Impossible.

"You could write a book about him," said Fipke. "He could gallop two miles really fast and not even blow out a match but he had behavioral problems."

Not Impossible never made it to the races and now stands at Anson Stud Farm in Caledon East, Ontario.

Perfect Soul, who inherited his dam's problem shins, showed so much promise that Baffert wanted to train the colt in California, but the hard tracks didn't agree with the horse.

The colt made his racing debut less than four months ago but was second in the Grade 1 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap in August, only his fourth career start.

Ball Chairman has a 2-year-old full brother to Perfect Soul named Triple X (the best cut of a diamond) and a weanling full sister named Sheba Gold.

Fipke is reluctant to get too high on the chances of Perfect Soul in the Canadian International but admits he has waited a long time for a top class racehorse.

"It's been a long, hard battle," said Fipke. "Everyone's given it their best effort. It would be really great."