06/13/2006 12:00AM

Impulse buying pays off for Broad

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Buzzards Bay gallops at Hollywood Park on April 26.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Gary Broad and his new trainer, Ron Ellis, traveled from California to Kentucky to buy yearlings nearly a year ago, the farthest thing from their minds was acquiring an older horse that might eventually contend for Horse of the Year the following season.

But then Broad, a retired Los Angeles real-estate investor, caught a glimpse of , and suddenly the parameters of a buying spree were altered. Now, with the 25th running of the Stephen Foster Handicap set for Saturday at Churchill Downs, Buzzards Bay is just one Grade 1 victory away from squarely entering the 2006 Horse of the Year fray for Broad and Ellis. The 4-year-old colt could go off as a slight favorite over Brass Hat, Perfect Drift, Master Command, Wild Desert, Love of Money, and several other older horses in the $750,000 Foster.

"I told Gary that a horse like Buzzards Bay didn't come on the market very often and the horse would probably go for something like $1.2 to $1.3 million," said Ellis. "The horse was so awesome-looking, and he'd already proven himself by winning the Santa Anita Derby and running fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Gary loved him when he first saw him."

Buzzards Bay was being sold at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales last July in Lexington to liquidate the Fog City partnership of David Shimmon and Bill Bianco. Broad (rhymes with "road"), thinking the final price would be too steep, initially did not bid on the colt, but when bidding stalled around the $650,000 level, he jumped in, eventually getting the colt for $725,000 on his second bid.

Since the sale, Buzzards Bay has raced five times under the white and blue Broad silks, with his last two races resulting in highly impressive victories: the Feb. 20 All American Handicap, in which he earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, and the April 8 Oaklawn Handicap, where he got a 110 Beyer.

"In the Golden Gate race, he really turned a corner," said Broad's racing manager, Richard Holtz. "After that race, that's when we started thinking we might have something that can really run with the top horses."

Before the Fasig-Tipton sale, Buzzards Bay was trained by Jeff Mullins, who, like Ellis, is based in Southern California. Mullins had bought Buzzards Bay for Fog City for a reported $175,000 in a private transaction in the fall of 2004 at Calder, where the colt started his career with three races for trainer Rodolfo Garcia.

Ellis, a 46-year-old Californian who has been training since he was 20, said he believes Buzzards Bay has the ability to win the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run Nov. 4 at Churchill. In lieu of the Foster, Ellis could have run the colt as a huge favorite Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Californian at Hollywood Park, but the Grade 1 ranking for the Foster, along with the prospect of decent weather for Saturday, was enough to get him here.

"This looked like a good spot to go for a Grade 1," said Ellis. "I'm not worried about the horse handling the track, because he showed he liked it in the Derby. We just need to get a Grade 1 on our record, and hopefully we'll get one."

Although he led every step of the Oaklawn Handicap in winning by 6 1/2 lengths, Buzzards Bay has tractable speed, which he almost surely will need in the Foster. Love of Money, the rapid 5-year-old trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., is the likely front-runner in the 1 1/8-mile race. "Our horse has shown he can rate off a fast pace," said Ellis.

Buzzards Bay will be ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. when carrying 121 pounds. Brass Hat, the local standout who most recently was second in the March 25 Dubai World Cup, also will carry 121 with Willie Martinez aboard.

Perfect Drift, who will be making his fourth straight Foster start, is next on the weights list with 118 pounds. The 7-year-old Perfect Drift blew out for the race Tuesday at the Trackside training center by going a half-mile in 50.20 seconds.

"He couldn't be any better," said trainer Murray Johnson.

Johnson said he was "a little surprised" that Ellis decided to ship Buzzards Bay for the Foster, "but that's fine. He's a nice horse, but we're never really affected by what else is in against us. It looks like there'll be enough genuine pace, and that should make it comfortable for us."

The Foster, one of six stakes to be run on a blockbuster Saturday card at Churchill, will be televised live on ESPN. The two-hour broadcast begins at 5 p.m. Eastern and also will include the Fleur de Lis from Churchill, the Ogden Phipps Handicap from Belmont Park, and the Californian.