07/12/2002 12:00AM

First crack at offspring of Derby winners


LEXINGTON, Ky. - This year's select yearling sales offer a rare treat for racing fans and spectators, as well as for buyers. The reason is that the first yearlings from three Kentucky Derby winners - Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and Charismatic - will be selling this summer.

According to The Blood-Horse, three Kentucky Derby winners haven't had their first-crop sales yearlings in the same year since 1939.

Not only did each horse win the Derby, but each of them also won the Preakness before missing the Triple Crown in the Belmont. Each was named champion 3-year-old colt.

Silver Charm won in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and Charismatic in 1999. Among other coincidences with this trio, two (Charismatic and Silver Charm) were owned and raced by Bob and Beverly Lewis, and two (Silver Charm and Real Quiet) were trained by Bob Baffert. Wayne Lukas trained Charismatic, and Mike Pegram raced Real Quiet.

Charismatic has 82 yearlings in his first crop, Silver Charm has 78, and Real Quiet has 76. Those figures show that these young stallions were well-liked by breeders, and Bill Farish of Lane's End Farm said that "we've had similar-sized books for Charismatic each year. We are very encouraged by his offspring, who look a lot like him, and we're anxiously awaiting the results of this year's auctions."

Although their numbers of first-crop yearlings are similar, the stud fees for the trio show a difference. Charismatic, who also won the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year, went to stud for $35,000 at Lane's End while Real Quiet stood at Vinery for $25,000 and Silver Charm for $25,000 at Three Chimneys. This year, Real Quiet stands for $15,000, while Silver Charm and Charismatic have remained at their initial levels. That in itself tells a tale of commercial acceptance and market reality.

Tom Roach, whose family bred Charismatic and sold him to Bob and Beverly Lewis, noted that "Charismatic's yearlings look good, and he seems to be passing on his looks and conformation." Those are good signs, as Charismatic was a handsome racehorse, and despite all the evidence that showhorse looks don't make too much difference on the racetrack, buyers will pay more money for pretty horses.

Since looks do play a significant role in marketing young horses, it is significant that Silver Charm has 11 yearlings and Charismatic 10 in three select summer yearling sales: Keeneland July, Fasig-Tipton July, and Saratoga. Real Quiet has five.

Charismatic has two lots in Keeneland July: Hip No. 58, a filly out of Make Smoke, and Hip No. 170, a colt out of Paved in Gold. His third entry, Hip No. 141, is out. Silver Charm has Hip 127, a colt out of Erinyes. Real Quiet is not represented at Keeneland July.

Bates Newton, general manager of Vinery, said that "the first two years Real Quiet was at stud, he was very solidly supported by Highland Farms, David Plummer, and Mike Pegram, who sent him 50-60 mares. This year, with Pegram supporting him, we lowered his stud fee to a figure that breeders are more comfortable with and believe gives them the chance to make a profit, and he got 120 mares."

The point of concern to breeders was not Real Quiet's racing ability. He won five Grade 1 races and was a Grade 1 winner from 2 to 4. But he was narrow-bodied and has imperfect forelegs.

Newton said that "he's a big, strong horse who has furnished out well into a nice stallion, and he has good conformation, barring his right foreleg. He gets a big, strong, athletic horse. Some are not correct in their conformation but are way more than acceptable."

The problem with conformation faults is that they hurt sales prices, although they frequently do not keep horses from being successful on the track. Newton addressed the situation: "The whole commercial thing can be annoying. It's easy to learn conformation traits and cull on faults, but it takes a real horseman to look past the faults and recognize that a yearling is offset or toed-out but can still run with it.

"If you go to the winner's circles at any major track, you will see horse after horse with conformational imperfections. So the emphasis on perfect conformation has little to do with ability, although you can't say it has nothing to do with soundness."

Interestingly, Real Quiet had a substantial career at the track, racing from 2 through 4, and Silver Charm, a modern model of sturdiness, even raced on through his fifth year.

Silver Charm is a powerfully built horse with very good conformation. He is hard to fault and is built like a tank. Braxton Lynch, director of sales at Three Chimneys, said that "Silver Charm was a strong racehorse, and at times he was a heavy horse, and I think his yearlings will be strong-bodied and have a very good top. They have very athletic bodies and look good standing. Then when they walk, that's their best asset."

A graded stakes winner at 2, Silver Charm improved enough to become a multiple classic winner at 3. Lynch said the strength she has been seeing in his yearlings "should allow them to be precocious, but they should also have the range and size that allows them to go a distance."

Lynch, who has seen about half of Silver Charm's first-crop yearlings, noted that the stallion didn't have many from his first crop to sell last year as weanlings, and she believes that "people were able to see how they would grow and improve at 3" and that this is the best market for them.

All of these first-crop stallions were outstanding racehorses, and now the challenge for them is to produce offspring that approach their own athletic ability. It's simple to say, but the stallions who sire the next generation of top racers will never be cheaper than they are right now.