06/12/2001 12:00AM

Huge weekend for Special family


LAS VEGAS - Special was aptly named. A daughter of Forli out of the blue hen producer Thong (a full sister to Horse of the Year Moccasin, as well as to stakes winners Ridan and Lt. Stevens), Special was unplaced in her only start, but her influence as a broodmare is immeasurable. Her influence is so great, her name will appear in pedigrees for generations to come. Special is the dam of Nureyev, the second dam (granddam) of Sadler's Wells, and the third dam (great grandam) of Bienamado.

Bienamado's impressive score in last Sunday's Charles Whittingham Handicap was the icing on the cake for this female family, which scored major victories around the world last weekend.

Sadler's Wells, now 20, was a champion miler in France and has been the dominant stallion in Europe since he went to stud in 1985. Yet the one race that his offspring had failed to win was the Epsom Derby - until last Saturday, when Galileo romped to an authoritative score over a good field. Even by his own lofty standards, Sadler's Wells had an unbelievable weekend. Three of his daughters - Imagine, Flight of Fancy, and Relish the Thought - captured the first three spots in the English Oaks just the day before.

It is nearly impossible to gauge the influence that Sadler's Wells has had on the breed, particularly in Europe, where his runners have more opportunities to race classic distances on the turf. He is the Mr. Prospector of Europe. Sunday Silence, in Japan, and Danehill, in Australia, are fast approaching this elite status as well.

Northern Dancer's greatest foal crop may have been 1977, when Nureyev and Danzig were born.

Both horses raced only three times. Danzig was undefeated but never got the chance to run in a stakes. He has, though, had a wildly successful career as a stallion, and now as a sire of sires.

Nureyev also won all three of his starts, but was disqualified in the 2000 Guineas. Nureyev was champion 3-year-old in France, and has sired only the highest-quality runners, including champions Zilzal, Miesque, Theatrical, Spinning World, Sonic Lady, Pientre Celebre, Fasliyev, and Soviet Star.

Nureyev and Sadler's Wells are closely related. Both are by Northern Dancer, and Sadler's Wells is out of a Bold Reason mare, Fairy Bridge, who is a half-sister to Nureyev.

While Sadler's Wells had a mind-boggling weekend, Nureyev's runners were on parade as well.

Skimming, who won the Pacific Classic and San Diego Handicap last year, wired his field in the Californian Stakes. Now 5, he is one of the rare runners by Nureyev whose success has come on the dirt. In 15 lifetime starts, Skimming placed once in only four turf starts, and that was at 2 and 3 in his native country, France.

Finishing second to Bienamado in the Charles Whittingham Handicap was Senure, a 5-year-old son of Nureyev who was making his first start of the year. Senure won the Steinlen and Fastness handicaps and finished fourth in the Charles Whittingham last year.

Bienamado is by Bien Bien, a flashy chestnut who won eight stakes, including the Hollywood Turf Cup, Swaps, and San Luis Rey Stakes, and the Cinema, Sunset, San Juan Capistrano Invitational, and San Marcos Handicaps. He also finished second to Kotashaan in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Bien Bien, in turn, is by grass champion Manila, who is by Lyphard, yet another top stallion by Northern Dancer.

Bienamado is the only stakes winner from nine foals out of the Vitiges mare Nakterjal. Nakterjal was undistinguished as a racehorse, but her potential as a broodmare was always unlimited because of her extraordinary female family.

Nakterjal's dam is the Hawaii mare, Kilavea. She won her only start in England but was a half-sister to Nureyev, as well as stakes winners Bound, Number, and champion 2-year-old filly Fairy Bridge, who besides Sadler's Wells, is also the dam of Fairy King, Tate Gallery, Puppet Dance, and Fairy Gold.

Kilavea's dam, Special, was a full sister to English and Irish champion Thatch, as well as stakes winner Lisadell, the dam of Fatherland, Yeats, and Golden Dome, and granddam of steeplechase champion Correggio and Sword Dance. Special is also a half-sister to stakes winners King Pellinore and Espadrille.

Showdown in Breeders' Cup Turf?

While it is titillating to think that Point Given and Galileo could meet in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, Galileo is much better suited to the Breeders' Cup Turf, where he could meet Bienamado.

This matchup is intriguing because it would pit two members from the same female family. The Breeders' Cup Sprint could also feature this rare occurrence as Kona Gold and Caller One share the immortal Grey Flight as their fourth dam.