04/30/2008 11:00PM

Field embraces all walks of life

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The field for the 2008 Kentucky Derby is an eclectic bunch that represents all walks of equine life, from the inexpensive homebred to the pricey private purchase. At the time these runners were conceived, in 2004, their sires' fees ranged from $2,500 to $300,000. But there are common threads. For example, the overwhelming majority of the hopefuls, 15, were bred in Kentucky, and three Bluegrass farms stand more than one stallion with a Derby runner this year.

Lane's End and Coolmore's Ashford Stud lead the pack with three stallions that have Derby entrants in 2008.

Lane's End's flagship stallion is A.P. Indy, whose fee was $300,000 in 2004 when his son Adriano was conceived as the most expensively sired Derby runner this season. Lane's End also stands up-and-coming sire Mineshaft, sire of Cool Coal Man, and Court Vision's sire, Gulch.

Ashford Stud's trio of Derby stallions are Giant's Causeway, represented this year by Cowboy Cal; Grand Slam, sire of Visionaire; and Tale of the Cat, who has Tale of Ekati.

WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., also has multiple rooting interests in the race. They stand Distorted Humor, Z Humor's sire, as well as Tiznow, sire of Colonel John. But their interest in Colonel John goes deeper than that: WinStar owners Ken Troutt and Bill Casner also bred and race Colonel John. If that were not enough, WinStar also co-owns Court Vision with Michael Iavarone and Richard Schiavo's International Equine Acquisitions Holdings partnership (also co-owners of Big Brown with Paul Pompa Jr.). And they also have a sentimental interest in Anak Nakal by virtue of the fact that they stood his sire, 1998 Belmont winner Victory Gallop, before selling him recently to the Turkish Jockey Club.

Victory Gallop is one of three stallions who have left the Bluegrass since siring their Derby hopefuls. The others are Gayego's sire, Gilded Time, now standing in Canada at Bar None Ranches; and Siphon, sire of Z Fortune, who holds court at Pin Oak Lane in Pennsylvania.

The Derby contenders bred outside of Kentucky are Bob Black Jack, the race's lone California-bred; Denis of Cork and Smooth Air, both bred in Florida; and Big Truck and Z Fortune, both New York-breds.

Bargain Kentucky Derby sires

Bob Black Jack and Smooth Air defy the thought that you have to breed to an expensive, fashionable stallion to get to the Derby. Each of their sires - Stormy Jack and Smooth Jazz, respectively - stood for $2,500 in 2004. Both stallions were standing their first season at stud that year and getting a Derby contender so quickly has given them some priceless publicity. Stormy Jack still stands for $2,500 this year - a price that is very likely to go up - and got about 110 mares this year on the strength of Bob Black Jack's performances last year, according to his co-owner Gary Howard. The Bertrando horse stands at Harris Farms.

Smooth Jazz, meanwhile, bumped up to $3,000 this season at Buckridge Farm in New York.

Another New York sire also hits the bargain Derby starter list, and that is Hook and Ladder. He stood at Sequel Stallions New York for just $3,500 four years ago when he conceived Big Truck; he's standing for $10,000 now.

Not every sire on the Derby starters' list will get a commercial boost, though. Blue Grass winner Monba has been flying the flag high for his sire, Maria's Mon, but the stallion died last September at age 14. Maria's Mon did, at least, achieve Derby glory before his death when Monarchos won in 2001.

And Boundary's son Big Brown comes into the race off a five-length win in the Florida Derby that made him Boundary's third Grade 1 winner, but the sire was pensioned in 2005. The farm that stood Boundary, Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., stands an active sire of a Derby starter this year: Pyro's sire, Pulpit.

Variety of ways to acquire a Derby horse

If you're looking through the 2008 field to decide whether your chances of getting a Derby contender are better if you breed or buy one, it looks like a toss-up.

Six of the starters are homebreds: Adriano, Colonel John, Cowboy Cal, Pyro, Smooth Air, and Tale of Ekati. All of the others except Anak Nakal, who was sold privately, went through a sale ring at least once, with varying degrees of success. The least expensive was Bob Black Jack, who could have been had for $4,500 at the 2006 Barretts January mixed sale, but his

current owners purchased him privately for $25,000 before he made his first start in 2007.

Cool Coal Man would have been the most expensive if Robert LaPenta had taken the highest bid back in 2007 when the colt was selling at Fasig-Tipton's Calder select 2-year-old auction. LaPenta had purchased him for $200,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but when he pinhooked him at Calder, he set a high reserve. Cool Coal Man failed to reach that undisclosed reserve on a final $850,000 bid.

Six entrants are listed as having sold at juvenile auctions, though one, Visionaire, was consigned by Vision Sales and purchased for $220,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. June sale by Vision Racing, keeping him very much in house; he later was the subject of a private deal, when Team Valor privately bought a majority interest in him. The others are Big Brown ($190,000 at the Keeneland April sale), Big Truck ($90,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's May sale), Court Vision ($350,000 at Calder), Denis of Cork (a Barretts March graduate for ($250,000), and Recepaturetheglory ($215,000 at Calder).

The six that last sold as yearlings ranged in cost from $32,000 for Gayego at Keeneland September to $375,000 for Unbridled's Song's daughter Eight Belles at the same sale.