08/08/2002 11:00PM

Free House, Event of Year get a rematch


DEL MAR, Calif. - In 1999, Free House and Event of the Year finished one-two in the Santa Anita Handicap, the only time they met on the racetrack.

In a way, their rematch is Sunday, when they will be represented by their first yearlings in the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's Del Mar yearling sale.

Free House and Event of the Year were the two top stallion prospects to enter the California breeding market in 2000. Combined, they have 13 of the 147 yearlings that will be sold at the Del Mar Horsepark on Sunday and Monday evenings. There are also yearlings by first-year stallions Bianconi, Crafty Friend, Malibu Moon, Mazel Trick, and Mud Route.

Among the freshman stallions, much of the focus will be on Event of the Year and Free House, both of whom were Grade 1 winners and millionaires.

Free House won eight stakes, earned $3,178,971, and finished third or better in all three legs of the 1997 Triple Crown. He has seven yearlings in the sale - five colts and two fillies.

Now 8, Free House was bred to 77 mares in his first year at stud, according to Kevin Dickson, breeding manager at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, where Free House stands.

"We think with the yearlings we present at Del Mar, it will inject interest in the stallion," Dickson said. "His yearlings have his eye and they have correct conformation."

Two of Free House's colts have drawn attention: a half-brother to Bay Meadows stakes winner Miss Lawless (Hip No. 48), out of Susan Powter, and Free Rocket (Hip No. 148), whose dam, Launch the Clan, is a half-sister to the New Jersey graded stakes winner Gather the Clan.

Event of the Year, who stands at Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, won 5 of 9 starts and $1,095,200 in a career interrupted by injury. He won the Jim Beam Stakes and El Camino Real Derby in 1998 but did not race in the Triple Crown.

At 4, he won the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.

Event of the Year has six yearlings in the sale - four colts and two fillies.

The group includes a colt by Miss Lawless (Hip No. 157) and a half-sister to Nostalgia's Star, a winner of $2,154,827 and the 1988 California-bred older horse of the year.

Although veterans stallions such as Avenue of Flags, Bertrando, Cee's Tizzy, Memo, and Smokester will have more yearlings in the sale, Event of the Year and Free House are expected to have an impact.

"We were high on [their yearlings] when we inspected them in April," said Doug Burge, the general manager of CTBA Sales. "They were supported by some of the top mares in California."