10/10/2002 12:00AM

Hermitage Farm's Raja Baba euthanized at 34 years old

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Raja Baba, once North America's leading stallion and the sire of such champions as Sacahuista and Summer Mood, was euthanized Wednesday at Carl Pollard's Hermitage Farm near Goshen, Ky. He was 34.

Hermitage manager Bill Landes said Raja Baba was euthanized because of the infirmities of old age.

Raja Baba, a son of Bold Ruler and the My Babu winner Missy Baba, has a long line of stakes winners to his credit. Among them are 1987 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Sacahuista, who went on to take divisional honors as that year's top 3-year-old filly, and 1988 Sprint victor Is It True. Other notable runners that Raja Baba sired in his long breeding career include Summer Mood, Canada's champion sprinter in 1985; Grade or Group 1 winners Ride Sally, Well Decorated, and Junius; Mexican horse of the year Gran Zar; Panamanian champion Raja's Rule; and graded stakes winners Small Raja, Royal Ski, El Baba, Sweet Revenge, Royal Plume, and Nervous Baba.

At his death, Raja Baba was the sire of more than 60 black-type winners from 15 crops to race and had total progeny earnings of $23,763,853.

Raja Baba was a prominent runner in the early 1970's. He won the first division of the Alligator Handicap in 1970 and the Francis Scott Key Stakes and the second division of the Delaware Valley Handicap in 1971. He also finished second or third in eight other stakes races. Raja Baba retired with a career race record of 41-7-12-9 and total earnings of $123,287.

As recently as last year, the pensioned stallion was leading a vigorous life in his Hermitage paddock. Landes kept a watchful eye on him there, calling him the farm's "mascot." In his old age, Raja Baba ate a special high-fat feed mixture that included cracked corn and molasses, but otherwise required no unusual care. He remained fit and active in his paddock for well past the average stallion's life span, normally between 20 and 30 years.

Landes, who saw Raja Baba win the Francis Scott Key at Bowie when he was a college student, had been with the horse since starting at Hermitage in 1977 for the farm's previous owner, the late Warner Jones, Jr. During his time at the farm, Raja Baba's fee rose from $2,500 to $50,000. He topped the North American sire list in 1980 at age 12, becoming the youngest sire to achieve that distinction since What a Pleasure in 1975.

"He was a very kind, pleasant horse," Landes said, "and he really made Hermitage Farm."

Landes said Hermitage had buried Raja Baba in the stud barn along with a halter with his brass nameplate. The farm will erect a monument in the near future.

Darby Dan adds Aldebaran to roster

Darby Dan Farm, which announced Wednesday that it will stand millionaire Hap for $5,000 in 2003, also will add Grade 1-placed Aldebaran to its roster. Darby Dan representative Davant Latham said Thursday that it's not certain whether Aldebaran will stand at the Lexington nursery in 2003 or 2004, but the farm has an agreement to stand the Mr. Prospector colt upon his retirement from the racetrack.

Aldebaran began his career in Britain with a second in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes and two other ungraded stakes. He arrived in the United States in 2001 and has since won the Nassau Handicap. He also finished second in the Metropolitan Handicap, Vosburgh Stakes, and Forego Handicap, all Grade 1, and third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

Aldebaran, now 4, is out of the Group 1 winner Chimes of Freedom, who also produced stakes winners Tomisue's Indy and Good Journey, as well as stakes-placed Sea of Showers.

A homebred campaigned by the Niarchos family, Aldebaran is pointing for the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington. His half-brother Good Journey also is slated for that race.

Copelan mare brings $24,000

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's four-day fall mixed sale, which was to end Thursday evening, had a $24,000 early session-topper that day. M. R. Stable signed for the Copelan mare Artistic One, who sold in foal to Yes It's True. Stoneriggs Farm, agent, sold the mare, the dam of stakes-placed runners Yasou Daniel and Niko the Greek.

On Wednesday, a $42,000 Star of the Crop mare named Tres Fine led the selling. The Wednesday session sold 179 lots for $800,800, down 15 percent from last year when 210 horses sold; average was nearly identical, dropping to $4,474 from $4,490; and median slipped 10 percent to $2,700. Buybacks rose to 29 percent from 27 percent last year.