06/22/2008 11:00PM

Frisky Thunder thrills Braeburn connections


The meet at Colonial Downs, which began June 9 and runs through Aug. 6, gives Thoroughbred breeders in Virginia not only an opportunity for a financial boost, but also a place to showcase their hard work. On opening weekend at the New Kent, Va., track, Frisky Thunder's dominating score in the John D. Marsh Stakes for Virginia-breds on June 14 satisfied on both counts for his Braeburn Farm connections.

Braeburn Farm, a 175-acre spread in Crozet, Va., about two hours northwest of Colonial Downs, is owned by Ursula Widmer, daughter of the farm's late founder, Konrad Widmer, and is managed by Bill Reeves. The farm has been turning out Virginia-bred runners since 1987, a number of them sired by the best runner ever bred and raced by Braeburn, millionaire Thunder Rumble.

However, Thunder Rumble was a New York-bred, gaining fame as the second horse foaled in the state to win the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, which he accomplished in dazzling style in 1992. (The first New York-bred winner was Ruthless in 1867.) Thunder Rumble, by New York sire Thunder Puddles, is out of Lyphette, a daughter of Lyphard who became one of the foundation mares for the Widmers.

An economist who owned an international trading company in Switzerland and raced horses in Germany, Konrad Widmer purchased Lyphette for $30,000 at the 1987 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Thunder Rumble was the first foal the mare produced for Braeburn Farm.

Once his racing career was over - after winning six stakes, including the Grade 2 Jim Dandy as his prep for the Travers - Thunder Rumble entered stud in New York, where he stood his first four seasons. Sent to Albemarle Stud near Free Union, Va., for the 1999 to 2001 breeding seasons, Thunder Rumble returned to New York in 2002. Now 19, he is a pensioner at Keane Stud in Amenia, N.Y.

Frisky Thunder, 4, is a son of Thunder Rumble, and he is his sire's first stakes winner.

The John D. Marsh was the stakes debut for Frisky Thunder. Trained by Jimmy Murphy, Frisky Thunder won over Colonial's turf course earlier in his career, in his maiden debut on July 21, 2007. That win was at 5 1/2 furlongs, by 4 3/4 lengths - the same distance as the Marsh, also on the turf.

Frisky Thunder came into the Marsh with a record of 3 wins and 1 second from 7 grass starts, and was sent off as the favorite in the field of seven, due in large part to his first start this year, a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance at Pimlico on May 3.

Away from the races for six months, Frisky Thunder burst out of the gate and dominated that day, winning by three lengths over Ra Der Dean, who came back to set the pace and hold on to finish third in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day.

"We had to get a race in him," said Bill Reeves, who was pleasantly surprised that Frisky Thunder, currently the only horse racing for Braeburn, returned with such an effort.

The cutback to the shorter distance of the Marsh was not a problem, as Frisky Thunder, after breaking sharply, rated off the pace, opened up when asked, and drew off to win by more than five lengths. His next possible start, the Daniel Van Clief on June 28, also for Virginia-bred runners, will stretch him out again, to 1 1/16 miles.

Frisky Thunder is the second stakes horse produced by Port St. Mary, a daughter of Seattle Slew purchased by Braeburn for $310,000 at the 1992 Keeneland November sale while carrying her first foal. Now a pensioner at Braeburn, Port St. Mary has had eight foals to race, seven of them winners. Among her other winners are 2005 stakes-placed Burning Rambo (also by Thunder Rumble), and Parish Land (by Deputy Minister), sold by Braeburn as a yearling in 1998 for $350,000.

Braeburn has cut back its breeding operation in recent years and had two foals, by Marquetry and Victory Gallop, born there this spring.

Braeburn has two other horses of racing age, both 2-year-olds by Victory Gallop, with Florida-based trainer Kathleen O'Connell, who has a division at Colonial Downs.