10/04/2001 11:00PM

Do-it-yourself project a hit


Most people give the Internal Revenue Service a wide berth, but John Michelotti, a small New York breeder and farm owner, has had pleasant dealings with the agency.

After reading about an IRS auction nearby Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Michelotti went there and bought three of the four mares offered at the sale for approximately $25,000. Two of those mares, Senorita Constanza and M. J. Bean, have been his best producers. The other, Seasons Comerant, won a couple of races for Michelotti before retirement and was bred to A.P Jet, which resulted in her first foal, a colt born last year.

After working his entire life in the heavy construction business, Michelotti, a native New Yorker, retired at 62 and decided he needed another construction project to keep him occupied. But this time, it would be a job Michelotti completed for himself.

In 1992, Michelotti, who turned 72 last month, bought 90 acres of land in Bullville, N.Y., and completely refurbished the property, which had been used as a chicken and dairy farm. Less than two years later, Michelotti, who had no prior experience in the horse business, hung out a shingle with the name Four Seasons on it and purchased Senorita Constanza, M. J. Bean, and Seasons Comerant.

"It was an old derelict farm and the people living there were squatters and they moved out - that's how bad it was," Michelotti said. "I did most of the work myself. The farm is now a showpiece."

Seven years into the business, Michelotti has already bred several winners, including Citizen, Lord Aly, and Mich's Pitch, who are all stakes-placed, and Rejoice by Choice. Time Release and Malagash, both bred by Michelotti and sons of Senorita Constanza, were maiden winners this year at Saratoga.

Although Michelotti breeds to sell, he still keeps the occasional runner for himself. One such horse is Vitamin C, a 2-year-old colt by New York stallion Abaginone and Senorita Constanza's fourth foal. Senorita Constanza also has a yearling colt by Langfuhr and a Marquetry filly, who was born this year.

What is unusual about Micholetti's breeding operation at Four Seasons, which has a 14-stall barn and seven paddocks with run-ins, is that he and his fiance, Mira Duke, do all the work themselves. Michelotti, who lives on the farm, said he educated himself on the foaling process by reading books and watching a live birth before he felt comfortable enough to deliver his first foal.

"We set a camera up in the birthing stall and have a TV in the bedroom and Mira and I take turns sitting up watching the regular TV and the monitor," Michelotti said. "The roughest part is that we lose a lot of sleep."

Because of Micholetti's hands-on approach, he rarely finds time to slip away from Four Seasons for rest and relaxation.

"I love the horses; I love the life," Michelotti said. "There are no regrets, but the only drawback is you get tied down and can't get away without worrying that you're doing the right thing by the horses"

Gander gets his graded stakes win

Gander, last year's New York-bred horse of the year, landed the graded win that had eluded him for so long in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup, a Grade 2, on Sept. 28.

Gander had picked up his fair share of checks in graded company,

against some of the country's best handicap horses last year and again this season, but had failed to win any those races.

Owned by Ted and Michael Gatsas, Gander now ranks seventh among New York-bred millionaires with $1,304,128 in earnings.

Gander, a 5-year-old, is trained by John Terranova, who said he would review his options for the horse's next start. The races under consideration are the $4 million Breeders' Cup on Oct. 27 and the $250,000 Empire Classic, a race for New York-breds that Gander won in 1999, on Oct. 21. Last year, the Gatsases forked over $360,000 to supplement Gander to the Classic and the gelding finished 12th. No supplement will be required if Gander runs back in this year's Classic.