06/02/2005 11:00PM

Ghostzapper has the tools to excel as sire

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The great trainer John Nerud has frequently said that "the best milers make the best sires," and there's a good deal of evidence to bear out that observation. Some of the best horses that Nerud trained, such as Dr. Fager and Fappiano, were tremendous milers.

Other top stallions, such as Mr. Prospector, Storm Cat, and Seattle Slew, were probably best suited to a mile, although Seattle Slew was so versatile and athletically gifted that he could race almost any distance.

That also seems to be the case with this year's winner of the Metropolitan Handicap: Ghostzapper.

A Grade 1 winner at 6 1/2, 8, 9, and 10 furlongs, Ghostzapper has the versatility to bracket the mile with first-rate performances a quarter-mile on either side of the Metropolitan distance.

The racing performances of Ghostzapper show a high level of speed and stamina, the combined qualities that make the best racehorses, and with such attributes and an outstanding record of 9 victories from 11 starts, Ghostzapper has become a premium stallion prospect.

And in the euphoria following the horse's victory in the Metropolitan Handicap, prominent owner-breeder Jess Jackson told the world of his great coup in acquiring a third of the Horse of the Year from owner-breeder Frank Stronach's Adena Springs.

Jack Brothers from the Adena Springs team said that Jackson was a natural fit with Adena Springs.

"He's assembled a good team, has a great eye for the kind of land he wants, and is doing everything first-class," Brothers said. "We were certainly aware of his enthusiasm, because Jess Jackson was so prominent last November with the acquisition of high-end mares. He's passionate about the business and aggressive in developing his program."

With a large volume of newly purchased mares, Jackson needed mates for them, and he began to acquire stallion interests in horses that fit his goals of breeding and racing top-end stock. Among his acquisitions, Jackson purchased 10 shares in Ghostzapper's sire, Awesome Again, prior to the breeding season, and has bred more than 10 mares to the stallion this year, Brothers said.

Ownership of 10 shares makes Jackson the owner of one-sixth of Awesome Again, who is owned by a 60-share syndicate. Jackson will have twice the equity in Ghostzapper.

Among the mares that Jackson sent to Awesome Again is Maggy Hawk, the dam of Preakness Stakes winner Afleet Alex. Jackson purchased Maggy Hawk privately last year on the basis of Afleet Alex's early successes, and he bred the mare's foal of 2005, a filly by the important classic sire Quiet American, in the name of his Stonestreet Mares.

The successes of Ghostzapper in 2004, when he went unbeaten and was named Horse of the Year, have proved an irresistible lure for mare owners, who have sent an enviable book to Awesome Again, a bay son of Deputy Minister. Among his offspring is the recent winner of the Black-Eyed Susan, Spun Sugar.

"The caliber of mares coming to Awesome Again has improved by leaps and bounds," Brothers said. "Even in the absence of Ghostzapper, the stallion has shown a lot of versatility with his offspring, and breeders have shown great interest in the horse."

Ghostzapper has shown breeders what the offspring of Awesome Again can do - in spades.

As reward for becoming such an outstanding performer, Ghostzapper will become an important stallion, and owner Stronach "has already indicated that this is Ghostzapper's last season of racing," Brothers said. "Ghostzapper will definitely stand at our Kentucky facility. At the end of the day, Frank will make a decision where he wants him to be" in terms of stud fee.

Ghostzapper is a 5-year-old out of the stakes-winning Relaunch mare Baby Zip, and his elder half-brother is the well-regarded freshman sire City Zip (by Carson City), who won the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and whose first 2-year-olds have drawn praise at the juvenile sales this spring.

With the large broodmare bands of Stronach and Jackson backing him, there will be not be a great number of extra seasons to Ghostzapper on the open market.

There will be some, however, and they will not be inexpensive. But Ghostzapper offers some fascinating opportunities for breeders in terms of pedigree and performance.

"If you look deep into his pedigree," Brothers noted, "you'll see he has very little inbreeding. Andy [Stronach] originally did the mating that resulted in Ghostzapper. This horse is a huge outcross. We've always followed the original blueprint that Frank and Andy laid out in breeding on outcrosses and using mares and families with solid racing performance."