07/20/2007 12:00AM

Grass sires could become fashionable


When Grade 1 winner Sky Conqueror eventually retires to stud duty, it is reasonable to ask if the classy, handsome colt will get the attention owed him from North American broodmare owners, because he is a turf horse.

A decade ago, the answer might be a resounding "no," but with the landscape of North American racing changing with the introduction of synthetic track surfaces (more conducive to horses who prefer to run on turf or are bred for turf), mare owners may start to change their tune.

Sky Conqueror, the favorite for Sunday's Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine, is a son of Sky Classic, a turf champion considered one of the elite sires in North America today.

A look at the leading sire lists this week shows sires who were essentially turf horses, such as Royal Academy and Giant's Causeway, in the top five as sires of horses who have won major races on surfaces other than grass.

For example, Giant's Causeway is the sire of Mike Fox, who won the Queen's Plate on Polytrack.

Kingmambo, Cozzene, Elusive Quality, and Rahy are other stallions who come to mind when considering grass horses who are top sires of runners on any surface.

In Ontario, one of the province's longtime leading sires, Ascot Knight, did his best running at 1 1/4 miles on grass.

Trainer Catherine Day Phillips, whose Jambalaya takes on Sky Conqueror in the Northern Dancer, said commercial breeders are still breeding for sprinters and dirt, but that yearling buyers or those breeding to race are not as strict in their thinking.

"The idea of a stallion who was a good miler is still what people like, whether it's turf, dirt, or Polytrack," Day Phillips said.

"When you are buying yearlings, however, and you are on a budget, sometimes you can afford the ones bred more for grass because they are less fashionable to the marketplace."

John Brnjas stands Strut the Stage, a graded stakes-winning son of Nureyev, at his Colebrook Farms in Uxbridge, Ontario.

"With the Polytrack, a lot of things are changing in our racing," Brnjas said. "We are no longer going to see that speed. The surface is really going to alter our breeding program in a hurry.

"Most of the smaller breeders have always been looking for that 2-year-old runner that will go out in front early and win. Now our racing is going to favor horses that are going to go longer distances and have some grass pedigrees."

Hard to find sires of stakes winners

Finding the sires of recent Canadian stakes winners is difficult these days.

High Yield, a Storm Cat stallion who sired Prince of Wales Stakes winner Alezzandro, is now in France.

Dance Brightly, from the rich Sam-Son Farms breeding program, sired Sweet Briar Too Stakes winner Arden Belle, but you can't breed to the sire now - he's in Chile.

Millennium Allstar, who raced in Ontario, is the sire of My Dear Stakes winner Dancing Allstar, but he died in 2005 in British Columbia.