11/22/2002 12:00AM

D'wildcat finally fulfills his promise

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Neither wind, nor rain, nor a cold splash of mud in the face could keep D'wildcat from adding a Grade 1 success to his resume last weekend. Victory in last Saturday's Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park put a premium mark of success into the past performances of D'wildcat, and that simple addition is immensely important to the stud value of the son of Forest Wildcat.

Grade 1 stakes signify competition at the highest level, and their value as indications of quality is not lost on the stallion managers and breeders across the country.

A horse of immense promise even as an unraced juvenile, D'wildcat was already a winner at the Grade 2 and Grade 3 level, and the handsome colt increased his value with his win at Laurel.

D'wildcat missed his chance at the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month due to an illness, but his trainer, Bob Hess Jr., said: "We believe that next year he will prove that he's one of the top sprinters in the country. He's had a productive year, although he could have and should have done more, if things had gone a little differently."

Hess is equally confident he has found the right combination of distance and equipment to show D'wildcat at his best in race after race. "Going short on dirt with blinkers is where you'll be seeing him in the future," Hess said. "The blinkers have made a difference in his races; he focuses better."

D'wildcat had shown immense promise early in his 3-year-old season, taking the Swale Stakes, but Hess had worked through a series of small things that kept the horse from racing to his potential. Hess said: "After trying him three times on turf at a mile, I thought he was flattening out at the end of those races. So we shortened him up for the De Francis, and he finished up really well."

D'wildcat ran the six furlongs of the De Francis over a muddy track in 1:10.81 to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

If D'wildcat has some improvement in him, he is going to be a major talent in dirt sprints next season. As the first Grade 1 winner for Fog City Stable, D'wildcat represents the brass ring for principal owner David Shimmon, both in terms of racing success, as well as breeding potential.

Hess said that the long-term plan is to develop the colt's potential, while maximizing his value, and "we'd love to run him through 2003 and then retire him."

From the purchase of D'wildcat more than 2 1/2 years ago, the owners have had a vision for the colt, and Hess said that was partially because "Fog City was very attracted to the Storm Cat line" - which D'wildcat descends from through his sire, Forest Wildcat - "because Mr. Shimmon is always thinking about the prospects for residual value in a stallion."

Speed and pedigree are very important ingredients in a stallion prospect, and sons of Storm Cat, such as Forest Wildcat, who show both are very hot properties. As one of the most popular sons of Storm Cat since he went to stud, Forest Wildcat found a very strong reception for his first juveniles in training when they came on the market in 2000. D'wildcat brought the second-highest price of all his sire's first crop of

2-year-olds in training, selling for $600,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March auction.

Hess said: "My father picked him out. He liked the colt's action and thought he would stay sound. Normally, Fog City doesn't spend that much money on a horse who's primarily a sprinter, but this is a horse we thought we had to have."

Forest Wildcat was a very fast racehorse himself, and as a sire has become the most consistently successful son of Storm Cat. In addition to D'wildcat, Forest Wildcat's best offspring are Forest Secrets, winner of the Acorn Stakes, and Forest Heiress, winner of the Sorority. D'wildcat is among eight stakes winners from the stallion's first crop.

Standing at Fred Seitz's Brookdale Farm outside Versailles, Ky., Forest Wildcat's fee and popularity have risen annually, and for 2003 the stallion will stand for $60,000 live foal.

D'wildcat is the first foal out of the stakes-placed D'Accord mare D'Enough. The second dam is a half-sister to Cowdin winner Sail to Rome, and this is the family of leading sire Deputy Minister and Silver Clover, winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie.