11/11/2005 1:00AM

To Fipke, Perfect Soul a precious gem

Email
Horsephotos
Charles Fipke holds a huge diamond next to Perfect Soul after a Brinks truck dropped it off.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Anyone stopping by Darby Dan Farm on Wednesday morning to look at stallions around 10 a.m. witnessed a curious scene. A Brinks armored truck pulled up in front of the farm's colonnaded main house, where Thoroughbred breeder and renowned geologist Charles Fipke and a crowd of about 15 spectators stood waiting. A Brinks guard emerged from the truck and, after collecting Fipke's signature, handed him a clear plastic bag containing a box about 8 inches square. Inside it, carefully packed in yet another box and a layer of protective foam, lay a pear-shaped 10.2-carat diamond.

"It's a D flawless white diamond," Fipke said, noting that the stone is exceedingly rare. There are only about 50 to 60 D flawless one-carat diamonds, he explained, casually rolling the nickel-sized stone around in his palm. It gave off colorful sparks of light in the bright sun. The diamond came from the Ekati mine Fipke owns in partnership. It is worth, Fipke estimates, between $3 million and $4 million, and it normally resides in Antwerp, Belgium.

What would possess a man to ship such a rarity under armored guard to Lexington? In Fipke's case, the love of his homebred stallion Perfect Soul, whom his owner believes can become the next Storm Cat. If he does, Perfect Soul will be worth far more than the huge diamond that will be featured in his advertisements.

When the small crowd of onlookers - among them the bloodstock advisers J.B. and Kevin McKathan, Jack Werk, and R.J. Bennett - had taken a gander at the dazzling rock, stallion handler Joe Dodgen Jr. brought Perfect Soul onto the front lawn.

Fipke's cell phone rang. He fumbled around with phone and diamond, telling the caller, "Yes, yes, it's here."

"That was Antwerp," he said, with the same sigh a teenager uses with nervous parents whose car he has borrowed.

It was just as well that Antwerp didn't have a representative on the grounds a few minutes later when Fipke, holding the diamond up to be photographed beside Perfect Soul's brass halter nameplate, accidentally dropped it into the grass at the stallion's feet. Fipke squatted and groped for it.

"Chuck, you're making the Brinks guy nervous," J.B. McKathan said.

Once the diamond was safely retrieved, the Brinks guy, Jerry Harmon, was more perplexed than nervous.

"Is that horse running in the Derby or something?" he asked.

Perfect Soul, a 7-year-old son of Sadler's Wells and the Secretariat mare Ball Chairman, was Canada's champion turf horse in 2003. He won the Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile and earned $1.5 million. Those aren't usually credentials that lure commercial breeders, but Fipke and Darby Dan's John Phillips have some reason to think the powerfully built horse will appeal to local horsemen despite their bias against turf performers.

"He's got that Secretariat underneath, which is proving to be incredibly valuable for stallions," Phillips said, "and Sadler's Wells has clearly proved to be a sire of sires with Montjeu and El Prado," turf performers who have been successful at stud. El Prado is a top-five sire in North America whose leading runners include Borrego, Kitten's Joy, Medaglia d'Oro, and Artie Schiller.

"We were always going to run him on the dirt," Fipke added. "But Roger Attfield, his trainer, had the philosophy that if it isn't broken, don't fix it."

Perfect Soul will stand for $15,000, the same fee that he had when he entered stud in 2005. Last season, he bred 125 mares, and Fipke has spent several million to acquire more mares from the November sale, including the dams of Borrego, Peace Rules, and Shakespeare, as well as multiple Grade 1 winner Jersey Girl.

"If I had to choose between the diamond and the horse, I'd choose the horse," Fipke said. "The next challenge is to make him the next Storm Cat, and that's what we're attempting to do."