03/11/2005 12:00AM

Good at first impressions


First foals by the brilliant runner Mayakovsky have begun arriving at Tim Little and Anne Morgan's Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, located in Saratoga County.

Owned by Michael B. Tabor, Mayakovsky began his career on opening day at Saratoga Race Course in 2001 and gave those in attendance something to talk about.

Mayakovsky broke a 55-year-old track record for 5 1/2 furlongs, getting the distance in 1:03.32, about a fifth of a second faster than the mark set by Tea Olive in 1946. The runner-up in the race, Thunderello, would finish second to champion Orientate in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Mill Creek manager Mike Tobin said Mayakovsky is stamping his foals from a first book of 62 mares. Just as he did as a runner, Mayakovsky is off to a terrific start at stud, and his 2005 book is eight bookings ahead of where it was last year.

"Our experience this year is that when breeders come here and see his babies, they book back to him," said Little.

Tobin said he made a mental note of Mayakovsky during his 2-year-old season at Saratoga.

"He had a Red Ransom-type career, and that appealed to me," he said, referring to the son of Roberto who as a 2-year-old set a track record for five furlongs at Saratoga in 1989. Red Ransom is a successful stallion whose progeny includes Perfect Sting, the Eclipse Award winner for champion female turf horse in 2000.

Mayakovsky made one more start as a 2-year-old, finishing second to Came Home in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he hoped to take Mayakovsky to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2001, but Mayakovsky came out of the Hopeful with a hind-leg injury that ended his juvenile campaign.

Mayakovksy returned at 3 to win the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, nearly 200 days after his performance in the Hopeful.

The Gotham is at a mile, an important distance when it comes to prospects for a stallion.

"We had been looking for a stallion for about five years, and when we made our first call to Ashford, they said they were preparing him for a rematch with Came Home in the Pacific Classic and weren't interested," said Tobin.

Ashford Stud is a division of Coolmore, the international stallion operation to which Tabor and his partners retire their runners for stud duty.

After three races on turf as a 4-year-old, including a one-mile allowance victory at Santa Anita, Mayakovsky was put up for sale.

"Versatility is a key issue for stallions," said Morgan. "I think people tend to classify stallions as turf or dirt, short or long, and so forth. When you've got a horse that broke a track record going short and then won long on turf and dirt, what more can you ask for?"

Phil Birsh, a New York owner and breeder who is a client of Tobin's and is the owner of Playbill Magazine, made the purchase, and Mayakovsky went to Mill Creek Farm late in the spring of 2003. He stands for a fee of $3,000.

Mill Creek Farm is also home to Lycius, a son of Mr. Prospector who will have his first crop of New York-breds arrive this year.

"He breeds soundness," said Morgan, who noted Lycius will have from 25 to 30 foals this year.

A successful international sire, Lycius stood in Italy, Australia, and Florida before coming to New York. His daughter Slap Shot is a multiple champion in Italy and is one of 12 group or graded stakes winners by Lycius. His son Hello was a Kentucky Derby candidate in 1997, when he won the Santa Catalina Stakes and placed in the Santa Anita Derby.

"Lycius is a chestnut Distinctive Pro," said Tobin, referring to the former leading New York sire who was a dark bay or brown son of Mr. Prospector.

Disctinctive Pro was euthanized in late February at age 26.

Lycius is a half-brother to Akabir, winner of the Bougainvillea and Dixie handicaps, both Grade 2 turf events. During his racing career, Lycius captured the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes in England and placed in the English and Irish Two Thousand Guineas.

Lycius stands for a fee of $6,000.