04/20/2006 11:00PM

Didn't take long for first winners

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The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's spring sale of 2-year-olds in training begins on Tuesday, and there are a slew of stallions in this sale who have first crops racing this year. For stallion owners, the wait until the first offspring of a stallion wins his maiden can be a time of angst. Not so for those at Hidden Point Farm, owner of the stallion Three Wonders, or McKathan Farm, owner of Gibson County. Both stallions had their first runners in April, and both sired a winner.

Three Wonders is a 9-year-old graded-stakes-winning son of Storm Cat out of a graded stakes winning daughter of Woodman. Three Wonders was better at middle distances than sprinting, so to sire a colt who zipped 21.85 seconds for a quarter-mile at Woodbine has to be a pleasant surprise. The colt, Pete's Wonder, is out of Wish for Candi, by Candi's Gold. There are 20 offspring of Three Wonders cataloged for the Ocala spring sale.

Gibson County, by In Excess, won three stakes and placed in eight others sprinting. Gibson County, 9, was expected to be a precocious sire. So when Genuine Talent, out of a mare by Allen's Prospect, also won his maiden, in 21.52 seconds at Santa Anita, earlier this month, it was no real surprise. There are four from the first crop of Gibson County cataloged for Tuesday's auction

Honor Glide holding steady

This is a significant year for the Bonnie Heath family, and for several reasons. It was 50 years ago that Bonnie Heath II and partner Jack Dudley won the Kentucky Derby with Needles, the first Florida-bred to achieve national fame. Bonnie Heath II and Jack Dudley have passed on, but their legacy remains. Long ago the two partners refused a generous offer from Bull Hancock to stand Needles at Claiborne Farm. Instead, they took their chances to stand their champion in Florida, where there were no more than 300 mares in the entire state and only a handful who were worthy to go to the court of a classic winner and champion.

Bonnie Heath III confronted a similar dilemma when the time came to retire his six-time graded-stakes winner and millionaire Honor Glide. A son of Honor Grades who is out of a full sister to French and American champion April Run, Honor Glide preferred turf and, as one might expect with his pedigree, distance was no concern.

"They weren't busting down my door to stand Honor Glide," said Heath. "There's not too many places you can go with a horse who has built a record as a turf horse - especially one whose best distance was over nine furlongs. I did not have much interest from Floridians, and the demand for turf horses in Kentucky, it seems to me, is not much better."

Heath, with no hesitancy, determined that Honor Glide had earned a shot at stud. So he returned him to Ocala to become a stallion. Because Heath has friends, colleagues, and neighbors who had supported several of his stallions in the past, Honor Glide got a book of 70 mares his first year, and that support has held.

There are 10 horses by Honor Glide in the OBS spring sale. But Heath is not sure how they will be received.

"This is a sale for dirt horses that can hoof it a quarter of a mile or less," said Heath. "So it's tough to gauge how the buyers will be reacting."

Heath has 12 horses by Honor Glide in training for himself and clients, and seven of them act like they might be early birds.

"It's a strange business," Heath said. "All the big money is made going around two turns on the dirt and turf, yet buyers go to 2-year-old sales looking for horses who cut out fast fractions going short on the dirt."

Many a furlong has been run since Needles put Florida on the map. Honor Glide is, in his way, a throwback to those times when racehorses were known for the company they kept, the frequency of their competition, and their racing accomplishments.

"How many racehorses retired sound at the age of 8 and won graded stakes at 7?" asked Heath about Honor Glide. "The Dudley and the Heath families supported Needles for more than 30 years as a racehorse, a stallion, and finally as a pet. I hope my wife, Kim, and myself will be doing the same for Honor Glide."