12/03/2004 12:00AM

Family line hinted at Play Bingo's success

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The successful Maryland breeders John and Kitty Merryman are gone from the scene, but their legacy lives on through several horses. Play Bingo, Maryland's newest star, is one of them.

A 3-year-old colt by Polish Numbers, Play Bingo gave an eye-popping performance in the Northern Dancer Stakes against statebreds on Nov. 27 at Pimlico. Facing several proven stakes winners, including Preakness starter Water Cannon, Play Bingo surged up in the final furlong, overtook the dueling Water Cannon and Diamond David, and drew away to a 5 1/4-length score in his first stakes attempt. It was the fifth win in a row for Play Bingo, who is undefeated since winning his maiden July 10 at Delaware Park.

F. Eugene Dixon's Erdenheim Farm owns Play Bingo, having purchased him for $60,000 at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. Play Bingo has been trained throughout his career by John R.S. Fisher, who selected him at the sale. In eight career starts, Play Bingo has earned $167,730.

Play Bingo's accomplishments are no surprise to Dark Hollow Farm owner David Hayden, who bred Play Bingo in partnership with William P. Beatson. Hayden and Beatson purchased Play Bingo's dam, Poised to Pounce (by Smarten), for $142,000 at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale. Poised to Pounce was carrying Play Bingo when they bought her.

"We scoured the catalogue for the best mare in the sale, then got in a bidding war and paid $40,000 too much for her," said Hayden.

Poised to Pounce comes from a line of stakes producers that began when John Merryman made

one of Maryland's all-time best auction buys in 1963, purchasing Counterflight as a yearling at Timonium for $1,500. Counterflight (Count of Honor-Sinister, by Revoked) never made it to the races due to injury, but she produced 11 foals and 10 solid winners during her long broodmare career at the Merrymans' The Orebanks Farm in Sparks, Md.

Counterflight's best runner was Lady Lyndy (by Bold Favorite), a two-time stakes winner of $60,531. Lady Lyndy gave the Merrymans their standout runner Smart 'n Quick, who won or placed in 19 stakes and earned $711,804. The Merrymans also bred from Lady Lyndy three other stakes-placed runners, each of whom earned more than $100,000.

Poised to Pounce, the seventh of Lady Lyndy's 11 foals, was a winner of $62,420. The first foal Poised to Pounce produced was Play Bingo's full sister Quick 'n Smart, who won or placed in five stakes, earning $160,020.

Quick 'n Smart also campaigned for Dixon, having been purchased by Fisher for $45,000 at the 1997 Eastern fall yearling sale.

"She was all speed," said Fisher. "It took us a while to figure out that Play Bingo wants to go a distance. Five and a half furlongs is a warm-up for him; the mile and an eighth [of the Northern Dancer] obviously worked well."

Kitty Merryman's declining health prompted the sale of Poised to Pounce, along with other members of her family. Merryman died in 2002, after having survived her husband by nine years.

Still owned by Hayden and Beatson, Poised to Pounce has a yearling Two Punch colt who is being prepped for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale. Not bred for 2004, Poised to Pounce is in foal to Montbrook and booked to Not for Love.

- The Maryland Million nominations deadline is less than a month away. The final date for nominating eligible Maryland-sired foals of 2003 is Dec. 31. For more information, call (410) 252-2100.