09/17/2003 11:00PM

Freshman sires have tough act to follow


LAS VEGAS - Last year's freshman stallions continue to make an impact on the breeding industry.

Led by Distorted Humor, the group of 2002 freshman sires has been exceptionally strong. Distorted Humor was the leading first-crop sire last year and that was before Funny Cide came to prominence. Grand Slam's initial crop includes Dwyer and Jim Dandy Stakes winner Strong Hope and undefeated Pennsylvania Derby winner Grand Hombre. Tale of the Cat's best offspring include Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Aristocat; Debutante Stakes winner Be Gentle; Sorority and Astoria Stakes winner Feline Story; Inamorato, a stakes winner who finished third in the UAE Derby; and Adirondack Stakes winner Whoopi Cat.

Elusive Quality's top performers include Adopted Daughter, Chimichurri, Elusive City, Frankiefourfingers, Gimmieawink, Great Notion, and Omega Code. Deputy Commander's offspring include Travers Stakes winner Ten Most Wanted and Brancusi. Awesome Again's best runners include Toccet, Ghostzapper, Awesome of Course, and Echeverria. Touch Gold got off to a fast start at stud with Composure, and his big runners this year include Midas Eyes, Region of Merit, Buzzy's Gold, Coldntight, Mass Media, and Powerful Touch.

While it will be hard to surpass the success of last year's freshman sires, this year's freshman group of stallions is off to a blazing start, headed by two European-based sires, Fasliyev and Cape Cross.

Fasliyev was undefeated in only five career starts, all at age 2. By one of the world's great stallions, the late Nureyev, Fasliyev is out of the unraced Mr. Prospector mare Mr. P's Princess, a daughter of blue-hen producer Anne Campbell and thus a half-sister to Menifee and Desert Wine.

Cape Cross was a top sprinter-miler by European champion sprinter Green Desert, and he is out of the brilliant Ahonoora mare Park Appeal. This female family also produced major group winners Diktat and Russian Rhythm, Alydaress, Desirable, Dumaani, Shadayid, Bint Shadayid, and Bin Ajwaad.

What is striking about both Fasliyev and Cape Cross is their ratio of starters from foals, and winners from those starters. From 54 foals, Fasliyev has 50 starters and 22 winners, while Cape Cross has had an amazing 32 starters from 33 foals, with 17 winners. These remarkable statistics are a breeder's dream and are a rare exception to even the best stallions.

Because Fasliyev and Cape Cross have outstanding turf pedigrees and are based in Europe, their offspring have raced almost exclusively on turf. Fasliyev already has six stakes winners and Cape Cross has three. With an abundance of speed in their pedigrees, it is no surprise that Fasliyev and Cape Cross have had win-early, precocious 2-year-olds, and their offspring will prove to be at their best up to one mile on grass.

Stravinsky passes along his speed

Another son of Nureyev, Stravinsky, leads the American-based group of first-crop sires with two stakes winners and 18 winners from 41 starters. Like Fasliyev and Cape Cross, Stravinsky was a top Group 1-winning sprinter who is transmitting his high speed to his runners.

Stravinsky stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky and his juveniles are also winning on dirt, although turf will ultimately be their preferred surface. In addition to inheriting grass and brilliance from Nureyev, Stravinsky is out of the international stakes winner Fire the Groom, a daughter of champion European miler Blushing Groom. Stravinsky's second dam is by Mr. Prospector, and his third dam is Kentucky Oaks winner Native Street, one of a bevy of truly exceptional race and broodmares from the crop of 1963. This stellar group includes champion and 1965 co-Horse of the Year Moccasin, champion Lady Pitt (whose descendants include Blitey, Heavenly Prize, Dancing Spree, and Fantastic Find), Natashka (the ancestress of both Elusive Quality and Anees), Marking Time (dam of Relaxing and granddam of Easy Goer), and Priceless Gem, who defeated the mighty Buckpasser at age 2 in the Futurity Stakes.

Priceless Gem produced Allez France, considered to be one of Europe's greatest fillies. Priceless Gem's daughters became coveted broodmares as well. Priceless Countess (Vaguely Noble) produced Ordway, and Lady Winborne (Secretariat) was the dam of five stakes winners, La Gueriere, Born Wild, Al Mamoon, Lost Soldier, and Lord of Warriors.

As expected, Forestry and Tactical Cat, two sons of Storm Cat, are also off to quick starts at stud and are currently the second and third leading freshman sires in the U.S. While they do not have the number of winners as Stravinsky, offspring by Forestry and Tactical Cat are showing speed. Forestry has 6 winners from 14 starters while Tactical Cat has 8 winners from 16 starters. Bred to a superior book of mares, Forestry, in particular, has the potential to blossom into a major stallion, much like Grand Slam has done this year.

Yet another son of Storm Cat, Stormin Fever, is making noise on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the sire of 7 winners from 28 starters, including East Bay, who was third in the Three Chimney Stakes. Last weekend, Howick Falls became Stormin Fever's first graded stakes winner when he captured the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster over China Eyes, a son of Fasliyev. With Storm Cat as his sire, Stormin Fever is a hidden-turf sire and is capable of getting winners on all surfaces. His runners should offer good value when racing on the turf because he is not associated with grass.