07/08/2003 11:00PM

Grand Slam runners cover all the bases

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LAS VEGAS - Expectations were high when Grand Slam went to stud. A two-time Grade 1 winner at 2, when he captured the Champagne and Futurity stakes, Grand Slam won the Peter Pan Stakes at 3 but was more of a bridesmaid that year, finishing second or third in six other stakes. In the final race of his career, he finished second to Reraise in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Sprint, finishing ahead of Kona Gold.

Grand Slam had a banner day last Sunday when Strong Hope, a member of Grand Slam's first crop, won the Dwyer Stakes, and Limehouse, a member of his second crop, won the Bashford Manor Stakes. Both stakes winners are trained by Todd Pletcher, who has a barnful of very promising juveniles.

Strong Hope, a $1.7 million purchase by Eugene and Laura Melnyk at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August 2001, finished fourth in his career debut in March at Gulfstream but has been perfect in four starts since. A 1 1/16-mile race around one turn, such as the Dwyer, is a perfect fit for Strong Hope, who may yet stretch out to 1 1/8 miles under ideal conditions.

Another product of Rasmussen Factor

Strong Hope is out of the Deputy Minister mare Shining Through, also the dam of Group 3 winner Bahamian Pirate (by Housebuster). But what catches the eye about this pedigree is that the exceptional broodmare Sex Appeal is found twice, creating the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals). Sex Appeal is found in Grand Slam's pedigree through her son El Gran Senor (Northern Dancer), while Sex Appeal is also found in Shining Through's pedigree, through her daughter Solar.

Limehouse, a $140,000 purchase by Dogwood Stable at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August 2002, is undefeated in three starts. Winner of his maiden race on April 16 at Keeneland, Limehouse captured the Three Chimneys Stakes at Churchill Downs May 3,on the undercard of Kentucky Derby. Limehouse showed quality winning the roughly run Bashford Manor, and he could be headed to Saratoga with the Hopeful Stakes as his main objective.

Limehouse is out of the Dixieland Band mare Dixieland Blues, and the next dam is Sorority Stakes winner Blue Jean Baby (Mr. Prospector). Limehouse's third dam is multiple stakes winner Jones Time Machine.

Up-and-coming stallion

Grand Slam, who was cut out to be a classy sprinter-miler, has a pedigree to drool over. Grand Slam is by the brilliant international stallion Gone West, whose runners are as successful on turf as dirt. Notable turf runners by Gone West include Zafonic, a champion at 2 and 3 in England and France; Royal Abjar, a two-time champion in Germany; Da Hoss, two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile; Lassigny; and Elusive Quality. His many dirt stakes winners include 2000 Belmont Stakes victor Commendable, Came Home, West by West, Link River, Changeintheweather, Proud Citizen, and Mr. Greeley.

Commendable's Belmont victory at 1 1/2 miles was clearly an aberration, but there is no question he was a horse of quality with an enviable pedigree. While Gone West's runners may stretch out to middle distances on occasion, they are most effective as sprinter-milers on dirt and turf.

Grand Slam is out of multiple stakes winner Bright Candles, and his second dam is stakes winner Christmas Bonus. His third dam, stakes winner Sugar Plum Time, was bred by the Phipps family, and in addition to being a full sister to Yule Log, the dam of champion Christmas Past, she was also a half-sister to Sweet Tooth, the dam of Alydar.

Grand Slam is on the verge of breaking through as an elite stallion. What makes him particularly appealing to breeders is that his runners are versatile. They are precocious at 2, and their speed is dangerous on all surfaces. Although he achieved success on dirt, Grand Slam is also a "hidden turf" sire. He gets an abundance of turf breeding from his sire, Gone West, and his dam's sire, El Gran Senor, one of Northern Dancer's classiest runners.

If Grand Slam is bred to mares by grass influences, such as sons of Roberto (Dynaformer, Kris S., Red Ransom, Silver Hawk) or Northern Dancer-line stallions (Theatrical, Danzig, Sadler's Wells, Nureyev), the turf influence would be magnified. If Grand Slam is bred to mares with Alydar in their pedigrees, it would create attractive inbreeding to Plum Cake.