04/07/2006 12:00AM

Dress Grey home ahead of schedule


Linda Newton experienced a horse owner's ultimate highs and lows watching her 3-year-old homebred filly Dress Grey power to an 8 1/2-length victory in Laurel Park's Smart Halo Stakes on April 1, and then leave the track in a horse ambulance.

Fortunately, the prognosis is excellent for Dress Grey, who is back home at Newton's Roundaway Farm near Marshall, Va., recuperating from a fracture to her left medial sesamoid.

"We were looking forward to having her as a broodmare - just not so soon," said Newton, adding that Dress Grey is not likely to be bred until 2007. She expressed gratitude to jockey Erick Rodriguez for his care in helping to save the filly.

Dress Grey, from the second crop of Northview Stallion Station's young Storm Cat sire Lion Hearted, showed talent throughout her brief career, winning or placing in four of her six starts and earning $86,600 under the care of trainer Graham Motion. She finished fourth, less than three lengths behind the winner, Somethinaboutbetty, while making her stakes debut in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes in December, and had aired by 7 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong allowance race at Philadelphia Park on March 11, her last outing before the Smart Halo.

Fourth betting choice in the field of nine for the unrestricted Smart Halo, which was led by lukewarm favorite Summer Cruise, Dress Grey dueled through early fractions of 21.94 and 45.62 seconds before drawing away from her rivals and completing the six furlongs in 1:11.48. As a Maryland-bred, Dress Grey took the winner's share of a $25,000 purse enhancement provided by the Maryland-bred Fund and added to the $50,000 base purse for the Smart Halo.

For Newton, the opportunity to add Dress Grey to her broodmare band amounts to far more than a consolation prize. Dress Grey is part of a remarkable family that Newton has developed over the past decade with help from her friend Susan Shipp. Wife of Frank Shipp, who manages Joe Allbritton's nearby Lazy Lane Farm, "Susan advises me on all the pedigree decisions," said Newton, who was involved with fox hunting and three-day eventing for many years before becoming "hooked" on racing.

It was Shipp's acumen that led Newton to privately purchase Dress Grey's dam, the Secret Hello mare Chemise. Now 11, Chemise descends from the bloodlines that produced 1972 Preakness winner Bee Bee Bee. Her own racing career was cut short by injury, but Chemise has produced five winners, including two stakes winners, from five foals of racing age - all bred by Newton. Chemise's second foal, by Not for Love, was Coquettish, who won or placed in seven stakes, including a victory in the 2002 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, earning $192,503. Coquettish, voted champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old filly of 2002, campaigned for Susan Shipp and another friend, Cindy Polk, after Newton sold her as a weanling to Shipp.

Newton has two Thoroughbred mares in production: Chemise and her 5-year-old daughter, Roxyette (by Not for Love). Roxyette won or placed in three of her five starts, earning $50,200 before joining Newton's broodmare band, and was bred this season to Pleasant Tap.

Chemise has a yearling Not for Love colt whom Newton intends to sell at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. On April 4, she delivered another colt by Not for Love at Dark Hollow Farm in Upperco, Md., where she will stay until weaning time. She is booked to Broken Vow.

Another of Chemise's daughters, the 4-year-old Unbridled Jet filly Miss Lombardi, is currently Newton's only runner. Miss Lombardi was sold for $40,000 at the 2003 Eastern fall sale and later reacquired by Newton. She has earned $60,060 with six wins or placings in 10 starts, and is now at Roundaway for rest and relaxation.

Newton and her husband, Robert, have owned their 60-acre Virginia farm since 1989, when Robert Newton retired from his career as an Army officer.

"We're both Army brats," said Linda Newton, "and we'd dreamed of settling in this part of the country."

Each of Chemise's foals named by Linda Newton carries a reference to West Point, where her father was graduate manager of athletics. But Newton's breeding operation is most closely tied to Maryland.

"We've always made sure that Chemise delivers her foals there, in order to participate in the Maryland breeding program," said Newton.