04/29/2005 12:00AM

From first crop, two chances to join the elite

Suzie Picou-Oldham
Bandini, here romping in the Blue Grass Stakes, be joined by another colt sired by Fusaichi Pegasus, Andromeda's Hero, in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - With two colts - Bandini and Andromeda's Hero - expected to start in the Kentucky Derby, Fusaichi Pegasus has a profound opportunity to establish himself as an eminent classic sire with his very first crop of racers.

Few stallions ever sire a horse worthy of starting in the Kentucky Derby, and far fewer sire a winner of the race.

If either colt by Fusaichi Pegasus wins the classic on Saturday, this would represent the next level of success in lifetime littered with accomplishments. An exceptional yearling who became a classic winner as a racehorse, Fusaichi Pegasus was one of the best freshmen sires last year, and a classic winner would make him a stallion to be reckoned with for years to come.

By Mr. Prospector out of a full sister to Preakness winner Pine Bluff, the big bay Fusaichi Pegasus was an outstanding yearling at the Keeneland July select yearling auction, and, selling out of the Stone Farm consignment for breeders Stonerside Stable and Arthur Hancock, the colt brought $4 million from Fusao Sekiguchi.

After Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby in 2000, he became the hottest stallion prospect in history, selling to Coolmore in a private deal that placed the horse's value around $60 million.

One of the most exceptional sons of the great sire Mr. Prospector, Fusaichi Pegasus has begun to prove himself in his next challenge, as a sire.

Along with leading freshman sire Successful Appeal, as well as Yes It's True and Giant's Causeway, Fusaichi Pegasus was one of the best freshmen sires last year with his first crop of juveniles, and has sired offspring who have trained on very well and appear to prosper with greater maturity and distance.

In addition to the distinction of having a pair of Derby colts, Fusaichi Pegasus could become the first Kentucky Derby winner since Unbridled to sire a winner of the classic. This is a subset of high success that typically marks a stallion with significant classic qualities as a sire.

In addition to Unbridled, who sired Grindstone, other Derby winners who have sired winners in the Churchill classic are Seattle Slew (Swale in 1984), Swaps (Chateaugay, 1963), Determine (Decidedly, 1962), Ponder (Needles, 1956), Count Fleet (Count Turf, 1951), Pensive (Ponder, 1949), Bold Venture (Assault, 1946, and Middleground, 1950), Reigh Count (Count Fleet, 1943), Gallant Fox (Omaha, 1935), Bubbling Over (Burgoo King, 1932), and Halma (Alan-a-Dale, 1902).

The emphasis on classic quality in a stallion runs against the grain of the American racing program, which offers the vast majority of its racing in sprints, and many of the most commercial sires and yearlings are those best suited to the sprint program.

Yet, despite the emphasis on precocity and sprint conformation at the sales, when the big money comes down, breeders want classic racehorses. And as a racehorse and stallion who managed to balance the elements of speed and classicism in his pedigree, Fusaichi Pegasus would take flight as a sire of a very high standard with a classic winner from his first crop.

A beautifully conformed and strongly made horse, Fusaichi Pegasus already is a very popular stallion with breeders and auction buyers, and a juvenile colt from his first crop of 2-year-olds brought $4.5 million from Sekiguchi at the Fasig-Tipton select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder last year. That colt, named Fusaichi Samurai, won his debut impressively last year but has not participated in the Triple Crown preps because of a pulled muscle in his hindquarters.

Also, Roman Ruler, the most accomplished of the stallion's juvenile runners, had to skip the Triple Crown because of a quarter crack.

The well-known breeder and consultant Rob Whiteley, owner of Liberation Farm and co-breeder of Roman Ruler, said, "I admired Fusaichi Pegasus as a racehorse and am growing very fond of him as a young stallion. He seems like the real thing for his ability to get athletic, good-looking runners with tactical speed, who can be effective when the question is asked in the late stages of a race."

As a result of combining classic qualities with good looks and speed, Fusaichi Pegasus has grown greatly in the regard of breeders over the past several months. The horse's 2005 stud fee began at $100,000 last fall, quickly climbing to $150,000 as his stock continued to win and prosper. And the most recent seasons to Fusaichi Pegasus have sold at $200,000.

In proportion to his reputation as a sire, the stallion's book has increased and will be in excess of 175 mares for 2005 in Kentucky alone. Truly, what will be the effect if one of his colts crosses the wire first in the Run for the Roses?