11/09/2001 1:00AM

Focus on N.Y.-breds in Stallion Stakes


In the last several weeks there has been news of many horses retiring or changing venues to stand stud in the Empire State, so it seems fitting that the New York Stallion Stakes series is in the spotlight this Sunday at Aqueduct.

The Stallion Stakes is restricted to horses sired by registered New York stallions, who were nominated to the series the year of the horse's conception. The foal's owner is then required to keep the horse eligible to the series. A single payment of $600 per horse covers a full nomination to the series.

Sunday, there are four New York Stallion Stakes races, worth a total of $400,000 in purse money, on Aqueduct's card. The $100,000 Fifth Avenue division is for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000 Great White Way is for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The $100,000 Perfect Arc is a filly and mare grass race and the $100,000 Cormorant is a turf race for 3-year-olds and older horses.

Beginning with the 2002 series for foals of 2000, Stallion Stakes purses will increase from the current $600,000 to $1.25 million. That number includes a pair of new 3-year-old races, worth $250,000 apiece, which will be added during the summer of 2003. If a horse sweeps the three races in either category (open or fillies) for the 2002 series, a $100,000 bonus will be paid to the horse's owner.

The majority of the horses participating in the Stallion Stakes, which also annually features two stakes for 3-year-olds in the spring at Aqueduct, are New York-breds, although it is not a requirement for eligibility.

It behooves stallion owners to nominate their sires to the Stallion Stakes. Five percent of purse money - on first- through fifth-place finishes - is kicked back to the stallion nominators, with the exception of the grass races. The annual cost per year of nominating a stallion is $2,500 or the advertised stud fee, whichever is greater.

Phone Trick gets top N.Y. dollar

At this time, it appears Phone Trick, at $25,000, will command the highest stud fee in New York next year. The 19-year-old Phone Trick, the sire of 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, stood last year at Walmac in Kentucky for $30,000.

During the summer, Phone Trick's Kentucky-based syndicate, with the exception of one share holder, sold their interest in the son of Clever Trick to Dr. Jon Davis, Dr. E. Paul Robsham, and Barbara Brewer. Phone Trick was then moved to Davis's Milfer Farm in Unadilla, N.Y.

Davis has earned the reputation of recruiting proven stallions to New York, such as Cure the Blues, who came to the 2,000-acre Milfer in 1994 at age 16 from Kentucky. Cure the Blues was a big hit in New York and currently holds the record for annual progeny earnings for a New York stallion with $5,204,222.

Davis is confident Phone Trick can fill the void left by Cure the Blues, who died early in 1999 and is represented by his last crop of 2-year-olds this year. In his last year at stud, Cure the Blues stood for $15,000.

"Cure the Blues taught me if you have the right commodity, mares will come," said Davis, who noted that mares were sent from all over the country to be bred to Cure the Blues. "My experience tells me that Phone Trick should do the same or excel even more than Cure the Blues. I think the timing is right to bring in a stallion of his caliber. The Northeast needs a respected and proven commercial stallion like this because proven stallions are on a short list here."

Davis and his partners held off setting Phone Trick's stud fee until after the Keeneland yearlings sales in September, an auction Davis said historically is a good benchmark for what's going on in the breeding market.

"I still think the Sept. 11 mess will have a trickle-down effect," Davis said. "But Phone Trick's progeny sold extremely well at Keeneland and the commecial value was still there.

"I think I have priced him appropriately, the way my phone has been ringing," Davis said.

Davis said Phone Trick was booked on average to 80 mares while at Walmac and he anticipates much of the same at Milfer.

"I expect to do the same, if not better," Davis said.