12/23/2002 12:00AM

Gambling on turf, stamina pedigrees

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In just two decades, Carl and Olivia Cannata went from having a stable of three racehorses to being named the 2001 California Breeders of the Year by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The gamble of turning their hobby into a full-time business has paid off handsomely, and now they're placing a bet on a trifecta of new stallions.

The Cannatas' Lakeview Thoroughbred Farm is located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains in Riverside County, about an hour from the speed-oriented racing at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. But this year the Cannatas will stand three young stallions known as much for stamina and turf performance as for speed. The Cannatas have leased two of them, French group winner Miesque's Son and Grade 1 Turf Classic winner Joyeux Danseur, from Kentucky's Three Chimneys Farm. More exotic is Japanese millionaire Raise Suzuran, imported just a couple of months ago by California-based bloodstock advisor Rollin Baugh.

Stocking up on turf- and distance-oriented stallions may seem risky in California, which has a nationwide reputation for speed. But Olivia Cannata, the self-described caretaker at Lakeview, believes people are wrong to think the state is all about fast times.

"I think that impression people have is erroneous," Cannata said. "We are known for speed here, but we have some good distance and grass races here, and more horses are being pointed for those. All three of these stallions are nice middle-distance horses, and I think they should fit well into the California program."

Certainly, California's turf racing provides some great opportunities, as anyone knows who has followed Bobby Frankel's career with former European runners. The Cannatas have positioned Lakeview to offer local breeders access to a new, well-bred European hero in Miesque's Son, who will stand for $4,000. For those breeders looking for homegrown past-performance lines, Lakeview will have Joyeux Danseur on offer for $2,500.

Both stallions most recently stood at Three Chimneys in central Kentucky. When the Cannatas went to Lexington earlier this year to pick up their breeding award at TOBA's annual banquet, Three Chimneys representative John Hamilton approached them with an offer they liked, to stand both stallions under a lease agreement. The deal brings some of the most sought-after bloodlines to California for far less than they cost in 2002 in Kentucky; both horses' fees dropped from $10,000 at Three Chimneys.

Miesque's Son, a 10-year-old son of Mr. Prospector and champion Miesque (by Nureyev), has one of the world's most prestigious pedigrees. His dam has produced another Mr. Prospector sire, French classic winner and popular stallion Kingmambo, as well as French 1000 Guineas winner East of the Moon and French group winner Moon Is Up.

Miesque's Son is entering his fourth year at stud and has four stakes winners to his credit: Grade 3 winner Miesque's Approval, Private Son, Mr. Miesque, and Boggs Eyes. His progeny earnings stand at more than $2.1 million.

Joyeux Danseur, a 9-year-old Nureyev horse out of the French group winner Fabuleux Jane (Le Fabuleux), also has an impressive family. Fabuleux Jane's star-studded produce record also includes European stakes winner Fabuleux Dancer and stakes-placed Danseur Fabuleux, the dam of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Arazi, who also bucked a trend by leaving his French base to show off his famous turn of foot at Churchill Downs in the 1992 Derby.

Joyeux Danseur has only one crop to race but has gotten the winners Joyeux Niner, Northdrop, and Joyeux Occasion from his 16 starters.

"We thought they'd both do well here," Cannata said of Miesque's Son and Joyeux Danseur, "and we understood that with all the high-priced horses coming into Kentucky every year, there has to be some movement of stallions out of the state. We're happy to be part of that movement."

From Japan, a stallion with versatility

Raise Suzuran traveled a long way to join the Lakeview stallion roster, but his pedigree also will look familiar to United States breeders, and especially those in California, because he was bred by Howard Keck, the breeder of 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. Like Miesque's Son and Joyeux Danseur, 8-year-old Raise Suzuran has a dose of turf and stamina in his bloodlines. He's by Woodman, a Mr. Prospector horse who was an Irish champion at 2, and out of the Danzig mare Sintanous. His immediate family also includes Louisiana Derby runner-up Sir Andrew Chandlr.

Raise Suzuran's race record is considerably less familiar than Miesque's Son's or Joyeux Danseur's, as he raced throughout his career in Japan, but a win at 7 1/2 furlongs, a second over 1 1/8 miles, and a third at 1 1/4 miles - all on dirt - helped convince the Cannatas that he had versatility.

"He made $2,863,000 over there, and that's a lot of money wherever you earn it," Olivia Cannata said. "And he runs on any track. He's run races long, short, on the grass, on the dirt, and in the mud. And they don't permit any medication in Japan, so he's done everything completely free of that. We think that it's important to put that back in the breed."

Raise Suzuran arrived in California practically right off the racetrack, and already, Cannata says, he's become a farm pet.

"I think he last raced just two weeks before he went into quarantine," she said. "He had 45 days in quarantine in Japan and then 30 days at University of California at Davis, and he's done nothing but eat. He looks absolutely fabulous, and he's very personable. Everyone just loves him. Even the people in quarantine told us he was the kindest stallion they'd dealt with."

Raise Suzuran, Miesque's Son, and Joyeux Danseur have Lakeview's stallion roster pushing 20, but the new arrivals aren't likely to get lost in a crowd, Cannata said.

"These horses offer something a little bit different," Cannata said. "And that's what everybody is looking for these days: something different and handsome, and these horses fit the bill."