12/29/2006 12:00AM

Fabulous Strike icing on Downey's 30-year endeavor


Walter Downey's Christmas went on for two days this year.

In fact, Downey, a longtime Pennsylvania owner-breeder and retired investment manager who lives in Boston, is still celebrating the victory by his homebred Fabulous Strike in the $75,000 Christmas Stakes on Dec. 26 at Mountaineer Park.

Fabulous Strike did not simply win that six-furlong event. The Pennsylvania-bred obliterated his competition, winning by 11 lengths over a muddy, sticky track, and recording a spectacular Beyer Speed Figure of 119, the best by a 3-year-old in 2006.

Actually, his Beyer tied for the best of any runner this season, equaled only by 5-year-old Bordonaro in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet in October.

Fabulous Strike, trained throughout his career by the Penn National-based Todd Beattie, is no holiday surprise, however.

He did nearly everything that was asked of him throughout the 2006 racing season, launching a three-race win streak with a maiden victory in February, and winning a total of four stakes at distances of six or 6 1/2 furlongs. Two of his stakes wins came at Belmont Park - the Romano Gucci on May 10 and Ziggy's Boy on July 7.

Affirming his talent over fast tracks and in the slop, Fabulous Strike capped his 2006 campaign with consecutive scores at Mountaineer Park, in the Sophomore Sprint Championship (Nov.o21) and in the Christmas, which he won by a combined margin of just under 20 lengths.

His Beyer Figures topped 100 in five of his nine starts in 2006, and reached 115 in his next-to-last start.

Although he has yet to defeat a top rival, Fabulous Strike has acquitted himself well in tougher competition. He was beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Songster while finishing fourth in Belmont's Romano Gucci Stakes last spring. And in the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park in October he finished second to Diabolical, the subsequent runner-up in the Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

"We've kept him in the lower-level races, where he can win," said Downey, who primarily breeds to sell and counts Fabulous Strike as the first stakes winner to race for him in his 30-year career as an owner. "He's a gelding, and we hope to keep him around for a long time; we don't want him to get hurt."

In 10 career starts, Fabulous Strike has earned $229,500.

Downey, a longtime client of Ron and Barbara Rickline's Xanthus Farms in Gettysburg, Pa., purchased Fabulous Strike's dam, Fabulous Find (by Lost Code), privately from local breeder-owners Victoria and Dennis Tanchak, who also have a longstanding association with Xanthus.

Fabulous Find was carrying Fabulous Strike (by Smart Strike), her first foal, when Downey bought her. Unfortunately, the mare died of colic in 2004, several weeks after delivering an Eastern Echo colt named Now I'm Found. That colt is in training for Downey but has yet to make his first start.

Fabulous Strike was a standout "from day one," recalls Barbara Rickline, who raised him until he was sent for breaking as a 2-year-old to William Downing's training center in Florida. "We always said he'd be a nice one."

Downey, who says he became seriously involved in the breeding aspect of the business in 1985, typically keeps about 15 mares at Xanthus - a number that may expand with the boom in the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund program soon to be brought about by slots.

Until Fabulous Strike came along, Downey's biggest contribution to Pennsylvania breeding was Judge Smells - a son of In Reality whom Downey purchased in Kentucky in 1994 and relocated to Xanthus.

A number of Kentucky sires have been transplanted with great success in Pennsylvania, but Judge Smells was the first. He dominated the state's sire lists before dying of colic, at age 17, in 2000.

Downey currently owns two stallions - Quarry (by Forty Niner), standing at Xanthus, and Say Florida Sandy (by Personal Flag), standing at Buckridge Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y.