04/14/2005 11:00PM

He saw 'Derby horse' right from start

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Bellamy Road rang the bell in the Wood Memorial on April 9, he transformed the Kentucky Derby trail into a "road" with a dominant figure.

The probable favorite for the Kentucky Derby, Bellamy Road has some classic history in his background. The colt's sire, Concerto, and grandsire, Chief's Crown, both raced in the Kentucky Derby. Chief's Crown, from the first crop by the great sire Danzig, was the favorite in 1985 but finished third to Spend a Buck and Stephan's Odyssey (also by Danzig). And Danzig's sire, the great Northern Dancer, won the race in 1964 with a then-record clocking of 2:00, followed up with a victory in the Preakness Stakes.

Although not on a par with Northern Dancer, Bellamy Road's sire, Concerto, had won five races in a row coming into the 1997 Derby, including the Jim Beam, and in the Derby lay third behind the pace of Pulpit and Free House before fading to ninth. A genuinely talented horse who won 10 of 21 races and earned $1.3 million, Concerto was bred and raced by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Farm in Florida and stands at stud in Ocala, Fla., at Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud.

Bellamy Road is from Concerto's third crop of foals to race and is one of eight stakes winners by the 11-year-old stallion. He is the second foal from the winning mare Hurry Home Hillary, a 10-year-old daughter of the 1983 Preakness winner, Deputed Testamony.

Bred in Florida by Dianne Cotter, Bellamy Road was consigned through Ocala Stud to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's April auction of 2-year-olds in training a year ago. And the colt's acquisition by Steinbrenner was the result of serendipity.

Just a few months previously, an Irish-born horseman, Edward Sexton, had been breaking yearlings and galloping youngsters at Ocala Stud. While he was there, he encountered Bellamy Road.

Sexton said: "The first time I saw him, I fell in love with him. He's not a typical American horse. He's a real European horse" in physical type and distance ability.

In between working with Bellamy Road and the colt going to the sales, Sexton became farm manager for Kinsman Farm.

"I was here a couple of months, and I saw Bellamy Road advertised in the April sale," he said. "So, I came to Mr. Steinbrenner, and said, 'If you want a Derby horse, this is the one who'll do it.' "

"He said, 'I've hired you to do a job. Go ahead and get him.' "

"How much will I bid to?" Sexton asked.

Steinbrenner looked at Sexton and said, "You go to the sale to bring the horse home."

And for $87,000, Bellamy Road sold to Kinsman Farm.

The big colt was the most expensive 2-year-old by his sire and, interestingly, also one of the least like him in appearance. Whereas Concerto is a chestnut who stands 15-2 hands and is a neat, typey sort of horse, Bellamy Road is a very dark brown colt standing about 17 hands with a rangy frame that he is still growing into.

In addition to differing from his sire, Bellamy Road is not much more similar to his dam, Hurry Home Hillary. Cotter noted that the mare is "is a dark brown, nearly as dark as Bellamy Road, but she has some facial markings."

And in height, the dam is not nearly so substantial as Bellamy Road. Cotter noted that "Hurry Home Hillary is not quite 16 hands, maybe 15-3 1/2. The granddam is 16 hands and broad. I don't know how he got that big."

If anyone would know, Cotter would, because she bred Bellamy Road and his dam. Cotter acquired Ten Cents a Turn, the dam of Hurry Home Hillary, privately through her trainer. The first foal from Ten Cents a Turn was Hurry Home Hillary, and both mares are part of Cotter's five-mare broodmare band.

That's not the size operation that typically produces a Kentucky Derby favorite, but it only takes one.

The mare's current juvenile is a full brother to Bellamy Road and is scheduled to sell on the April 28 at the Ocala Breeders' Sale April sale as part of the Ocala Stud consignment.

Cotter said, "He doesn't look at all like his brother but rather looks like most other Concertos." The colt is named Old Midleton, after an Irish whiskey, Cotter said.

Hurry Home Hillary has a yearling filly by Mecke and is due to foal about April 21 on a cover to the same Ocala Stud stallion. Cotter said, "We are considering sending her to a stallion in Kentucky but haven't made any firm plans yet."