09/04/2002 11:00PM

Hopeful winner has all you could ask for

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In winning the Hopeful Stakes, Sky Mesa did exactly what breeders, owners, and sales companies hope that a colt of his pedigree and physical quality will do. He excelled noticeably against talented opponents and offered hopes of many better things to come.

By the hot young sire Pulpit out of a graded stakes winner by Storm Cat, Sky Mesa brought $750,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale. John Williams, as agent, consigned Sky Mesa for Harbor View Farm, which bred and raced Triple Crown winner Affirmed and champion Flawlessly. Sky Mesa brought the second-highest price for a Pulpit colt at the 2001 yearling sales behind $800,000 for a Pulpit-Ocean Queen colt.

Sky Mesa is from the second crop of the handsome A.P. Indy stallion Pulpit, who was bred and raced by Claiborne Farm and also stands there. His first foals raced last year, but at the time of the September sale, he had winners but no obvious stars. As a result, timing played a part in the demand and valuation of Sky Mesa at the sales. Not long after, Essence of Dubai and Nokoma became graded stakes winners and helped make Pulpit one of the year's leading freshmen sires.

A talented athlete, Pulpit won the Blue Grass and Fountain of Youth Stakes. An injury in the Kentucky Derby ultimately ended his racing career, but he had shown enough talent and determination to attract good books of mares from the start.

Among his second book was Caress, the dam of Sky Mesa. The mare won the Grade 3 Athenia and Beaugay handicaps during her racing career, and she is a strong and attractive mare who is very typical of her sire. John Williams, who raised most of the horses in this family for Harbor View, said, "Caress was a good racemare, and it looks like she's going to be a great broodmare." Williams noted that Caress had already produced a Gulch colt, Monthir, who is graded stakes-placed.

In addition to her own credentials, Caress is a full sister to graded winners Country Cat and Bernstein. Bernstein was a very fast colt for Coolmore in Ireland and is now at stud in Kentucky at Buck Pond Farm.

Harbor View elected to sell Bernstein at auction, and in 2000, Williams, acting for Harbor View, sold Caress to John Ferguson, acting for Sheikh Mohammed, for $3.1 million at the Keeneland November sale. The mare was in foal to Coronado's Quest at the time.

Before selling Caress, Williams had transferred the Harbor View stock to Gainesway Farm, and Sky Mesa was foaled and raised there. Michael Hernon of Gainesway recalled the colt as "very strong and masculine, with a lot of Storm Cat about him." By the time Sky Mesa was a yearling, Williams had a colt of quality and substance to work with when he took the horse to the September sale.

He said, "Sky Mesa was a grand-looking horse, but I had only one guy really interested, and that was Johnny Ward, who was buying for Mr. Oxley. This colt was so nice that I thought he was a million-dollar yearling, and I'm just tickled that Jack Oxley got him."

Sky Mesa was an exceptional yearling. A striking bay with a very good expression, Sky Mesa was muscular and had a very good shoulder as a sales yearling. He also had one of the best hindquarters in the sale, and his hamstring muscles had the deep definition characteristic of the best offspring by Pulpit and Storm Cat.

Nor was he any less dashing when he won his maiden at Saratoga shortly before the Saratoga yearling sales last month. The handsome bay colt has the acceleration, athletic versatility, and presence of a very good horse.

In addition to his individual merits, Sky Mesa also comes from a famous producing family. Harbor View bred the colt's first two dams, Caress and La Affirmed, and from the third dam, the Round Table mare La Mesa, Harbor View bred champion Outstandingly. La Mesa is a granddaughter of Busanda, dam of champion Buckpasser and four other stakes horses. A winner of the Alabama and Suburban, Busanda is a granddaughter of La Troienne.

Along with the historic significance of his female family, Sky Mesa descends from each of the last three Triple Crown winners: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. Seattle Slew and Affirmed are in the colt's third generation, and Secretariat appears twice in the fourth generation. In each instance, Secretariat is the broodmare sire of the sire.

Next week, Williams will be back at the September sale with another yearling from this family. He is selling a Crafty Prospector filly out of a half-sister to Caress, Country Cat, Bernstein, and others. The filly is the first foal out of the Devil's Bag mare Firmness and is cataloged as Hip No. 508.