01/07/2005 12:00AM

Halo's Image tops list of leading money earners

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The year 2004 was a good one all around for Florida's Thoroughbred industry. The numbers - while not complete, as foreign data dribble in - show that there were 51 graded-stakes winners. Florida-breds won 309 stakes, compared with 314 a year ago. Foal production was consistent with previous years, with 4,144 foals, compared to an average of 4,214 for 2002 and 2003.

"There are always late registrations," said Linda Leaf of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. "The foal crops, though, have been pretty consistent of late."

Halo's Image (Bridlewood Farm) is Florida's leading sire in 2004 for money won. A total of 111 of his get raced and 60 of them won, earning just under $3.5 million. Of his two stakes winners, Southern Image, a Grade 1 winner with earnings of $1.6 million, was easily the 14-year-old stallion's leading money earner. Halo's Image is not known for siring early bloomers, as he usually hits with roughly 10 percent of his 2-year-old starters. What is becoming obvious, however, is that his get often do better on the turf. The stud fee of Halo's Image will increase to $10,000 live foal for 2005.

Montbrook (Ocala Stud), last year's overall leading Florida sire, finished the year with 129 starters, of which 74 won. Montbrook's cumulative stats read $17.5 million and 29 stakes winners - or roughly 7 percent stakes winners to starters. This year Montbrook, a 15-year-old grandson of Buckpasser, sired the winners of $2.4 million. Montbrook stands for $20,000 live foal.

The Bold Ruler line, other than through the Raja Baba branch, is shaky in Florida. Formal Dinner, the 17-year-old grandson of Raja Baba via Well Decorated, has been a useful sire since he entered stud in 1991. His get have a range between sprints and nine furlongs, and often are more at home on turf than dirt. This past year, Formal Dinner, who stands at Hidden Point Farm, sired 146 runners, and 87 of them won. This elevated his lifetime mark to $13.6 million in earnings and 18 stakes winners from nine crops to race. His 2004 get earned $2.3 million, enough to place Formal Dinner third in this category. Formal Dinner has a $5,000 live foal fee for 2005.

Florida's freshmen sire rankings require elaboration, as the national leaders, Successful Appeal and Yes It's True, have both relocated to Kentucky. Heirs apparent are Running Stag (Adena Springs South), Tiger Ridge (Hartley/DeRenzo-Walmac South), Sweetsouthernsaint (Ocala Stud), and Straight Man (Signature Stallions).

Running Stag is Florida's freshman leader in money won with $516,211. His 79 registered foals produced 34 runners, 11 winners, and the stakes winner Running Bobcat. For a Grade 2 winner who was winless at 2, and the winner of but one race at 3, Running Stag passed on a surprising amount of precocity to his offspring.

Tiger Ridge is a 9-year-old son of Storm Cat, and one could anticipate early development of his get. From a crop of 59, 26 of them raced and 11 won, including the stakes winner Anthony J. ($212,630). Total dollars earned by the get of Tiger Ridge add up to $518,486, good enough for second place.

The late Saint Ballado is the sire of both Straight Man and Sweetsouthernsaint, who dead-heated for most 2-year-old winners. Straight Man sent out 34 starters from a registered crop of 74, and 13 of them won, including South Battle Man ($97,637). Sweetsouthernsaint had 27 runners from a crop of 51, and his 13 winners include the stakes winner Better Than Bonds ($114,211).

Ten-year-old Double Honor (Farnsworth Farm) is the national leading sire of juvenile winners with 21 out of 39 starters. Double Honor, a son of Gone West, also has two juvenile stakes winners, and his get earned just under $600,000.

After Lady in Pink, a 3-year-old by Double Honor, won the $50,000 Happy New Year Stakes on turf at Calder on Jan. 1, Farnsworth Farm's Mike Sherman expressed pleasant surprise.

"You know, it looks like I have a turf sire in Double Honor," Sherman said. "It's not what I expected when I bought him to stand, but you can make a lot of money with a horse that can go either way."