10/21/2003 12:00AM

Fly So Free dead at 15


Fly So Free, 1990 male juvenile champion, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday morning at Three Chimneys Farm, where he had been pensioned from stud duty since last year. He was 15.

A Time for a Change stallion, Fly So Free developed a heart condition a year ago, and owner Elizabeth Valando decided then to retire him from covering duties rather than risk aggravating the heart condition.

"Elizabeth was able to come to Kentucky in time to see him last night, and he died this morning about 6 a.m.," Dan Rosenberg, president of Three Chimneys, said in the farm's statement announcing Fly So Free's death.

Valando and her late husband, Broadway musical producer Tommy Valando, campaigned Fly So Free. Trained by Scotty Schulhofer, the colt earned championship honors after winning the 1990 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Champagne Stakes.

Fly So Free became the second betting choice in the Kentucky Derby the following year after scoring in the Hutcheson, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby. But he finished fifth, 4 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Strike the Gold, to whom Fly So Free had been runner-up in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Fly So Free came back to win the Riva Ridge and Jim Dandy at 3 and the Fall Highweight Handicap at 5, in his final season. He retired with a lifetime record of 33-12-5-3 and $2,330,954 in earnings.

Fly So Free, a son of the Stevward mare Free to Fly, was less successful as a sire but did get some talented runners. Foremost among those is Captain Steve, a multiple Grade 1 winner who scored a victory in the 2001 Dubai World Cup. He had more than $6.8 million in earnings. Fly So Free also sired Canadian champion Free Vacation and graded winners Arabian Light and Take the Cake.

From seven crops to race, his progeny earnings stand at more than $16 million.

Fly So Free is buried at Three Chimneys next to another juvenile champion, Chief's Crown, and alongside his own sire, Time for a Change.