06/05/2003 11:00PM

Eye for bargain led breeder to Cozzene's Angel

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AUBURN, Wash. - Good timing and good luck are essential ingredients for success in the breeding industry, and Mary Lou Griffin has had generous portions of both since she purchased a 7-year-old mare named Cozzene's Angel for $35,000 at the November 2000 Fasig-Tipton sale in Kentucky.

At the time, Cozzene's Angel, a stakes-placed daughter of Cozzene, was in foal to an unproven sire named Aggressive Chief, and nobody had heard of her first foal, a weanling son of Awesome Again named Toccet. Last year, Toccet won 6 of 8 starts, including Grade 1 victories in the Champagne Stakes and the Hollywood Futurity, before being sidelined by a bruised hoof this February.

Because of Toccet's success, Griffin's investment in Cozzene's Angel has multiplied in value.

"I followed Toccet's 2-year-old campaign with a lot of interest, naturally, and I was amazed and excited by what he did," said Griffin. "I was incredibly lucky to buy Cozzene's Angel when I did. I could buy a thousand mares and never come up with another who foaled a horse like Toccet."

All the same, Cozzene's Angel wasn't the first big success for Griffin and her husband, Terry, who have owned Griffin Place farm in Buckley, Wash., for the past 25 years. The couple earlier purchased a Red Ryder mare named Outofthebluebell and bred her to Metfield, producing Rings a Chime, a winner of the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes in 2000 who earned more than $600,000 for her owners, Turf Side Stable.

Mary Lou Griffin sold Rings a Chime as a yearling for $26,000. She went to the sale where she bought Cozzene's Angel because Rings a Chime was being sold there.

"Rings a Chime was in the sale, and I went to Kentucky with some friends just to watch her sell," she recalled. "I really wasn't looking to buy anything myself, but once they put a catalog in my hands I couldn't help but look at it. There were several mares I liked, and Cozzene's Angel was one of them, but I didn't think I had a shot to buy her. I figured I could spend $30,000, and she had sold for $200,000 when she was in foal with Toccet.

"It was just one of those things, though. She was in foal to an unfashionable sire and nobody seemed interested. When the bidding slowed, I realized I might actually be able to buy her, so I went to $35,000 and she was mine."

She bought Cozzene's Angel from Daniel Borislow, the owner and breeder of Toccet.

Toccet hadn't hit the headlines when Griffin sold Cozzene's Angel's Aggressive Chief filly at last year's Washington Thoroughbred Breeders' Association sale in early September, so she went for only $11,000. The buyer, Tim Bankers, resold her privately to Borislow.

Cozzene's Angel has since dropped a yearling Out of Place colt, who will sell this September at Keeneland, and a weanling filly by Liberty Gold, a promising young Crafty Prospector stallion who stands at El Dorado Farms in Enumclaw, Wash. On Tuesday, Cozzene's Angel was bred in Kentucky to Deputy Minister, the sire of Awesome Again, so the resulting foal will be closely related to Toccet.

"I would think that foal will be very attractive commercially, so we will probably sell it in Kentucky," said Griffin. "I'd love to keep one of Cozzene's Angel's fillies for eventual use as a broodmare, but we are commercial breeders. We have offered everything we have bred for sale, and the only one that didn't sell was Best Judgement, who ended up being named Washington-bred 2-year-old filly of the year in 2000."

Best Judgement is one of 10 members of the Griffin Place broodmare band, a group that now includes three Grade 1-quality mares. In addition to the Grade 1-producing Outofthebluebell and Cozzene's Angel, the farm is also home to Lady Beverly, who won Woodbine's Grade 1 Selene Stakes.

While good luck and good timing have played roles in the success of Griffin Place farm, another factor has played at least as important a role. Mary Lou Griffin has repeatedly used her judgment to take advantage of opportunities as they have presented themselves. Because of that, it's likely the purchase of Cozzene's Angel won't be the last of her breeding successes.