08/04/2006 12:00AM

Golden Eagle reduces focus on racing

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The shift of Golden Eagle Farms from a racing and breeding operation to primarily a breeding one has been evident in the first two weeks of the Del Mar meeting.

For years, the burgundy and gold silks of the Mabee family's Golden Eagle operation have been a familiar sight in California racing. This summer, though, they have been a rarity.

Through Thursday, a third of the way through the Del Mar meeting, Golden Eagle Farm had run two horses, including Old Man River, the winner of an optional claimer on July 27.

Not too many years ago, it would have that many starters in a day.

Since the death of farm founder John Mabee in April 2002, his wife, Betty, and son Larry have maintained the farm. In recent years, Larry has had a more visible presence in the operation.

On a recent trip to the races, Larry Mabee said Golden Eagle did not intend to have an active role in the early days of the meeting. He said the farm would be more involved toward the end of the season and in the fall by starting unraced horses.

"The racing is not as important as the sales and the breeding shed," Larry Mabee said. "We're basically in the breeding industry."

Last year, Golden Eagle Farm was not among the leading money-winning owners at Del Mar. It has earned the owner title for earnings a record six times in track history, most recently in 1999. Over the years, Golden Eagle has owned such popular runners as Best Pal, Dramatic Gold, Excellent Meeting, General Challenge, and Yearly Report.

Currently, Golden Eagle has horses based at San Luis Rey Downs and at the farm, Larry Mabee said.

"We have a lot of young horses," Mabee said. "I probably have 45 horses in training. We have a good crop of babies."

Mabee said Golden Eagle is using a variety of trainers throughout the state, with Greg Falk, a former assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, serving as a liaison between the Mabees and the trainers.

Trainer Terry Knight saddled Old Man River. Trainer Marty Jones started Freedom Event, who finished third in a maiden claimer at Del mar on July 26.

Larry Mabee said some of Golden Eagle's emphasis has turned to sales. At the upcoming California October yearling sale at Barretts in Pomona, Golden Eagle Farm will have a consignment of five horses - by High Demand, General Meeting, Event of the Year, and Souvenir Copy.

In 2005, Golden Eagle consigned the October auction's sale topper, a High Demand colt that sold for $290,000.

High Demand stood at Golden Eagle Farm for $5,000 in 2006. The farm's leading stallion by stud fee is Salt Lake, who stands for $12,500. He had his first season in California in 2006.

High Demand and Salt Lake figured prominently in matings to Golden Eagle mares this year, Mabee said.

"We had 99 mares to breed," Mabee said. "We got 97 in foal."