01/26/2006 1:00AM

Juvenile speed can make or break a sire

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Bill Denver/ EQUI-PHOTOS
Yes It's True (above), Songandaprayer, and Successful Appeal all started their stud careers in Florida and were moved to Kentucky, where they stood for a higher fee.

The effect of fast horses on people watching them should never be underestimated. At the races or at the sales, the best returns go to the horses with the kind of speed to burn up the track.

The perception of extraordinary speed in the eye of a buyer or his advisers is the key to the sales market for 2-year-olds in training. The young athletes who have the early maturity and natural speed to run a furlong or two at full throttle bring hefty prices. And 2-year-olds in training do this before many of them have reached their chronological second birthdays.

While the nation's premium sires, such as Storm Cat, do not frequently have many juveniles in these sales, there is a cadre of highly consistent and successful stallions who have gained attention with their 2-year-olds in training and then turned that attention into continuing success as sires.

For example, Saint Ballado began his stud career at Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud in Florida, standing for a modest fee just like his fellow Ocala Stud stallion Montbrook.

The early successes of Saint Ballado's offspring, such as Florida Derby winner Captain Bodgit, propelled him to a place at stud in Kentucky at Taylor Made Farm, while Ocala Stud was able to maintain control of Montbrook, who continues as a premier sire in Florida.

This pattern of developing stallions in Florida before a move to the more lucrative stallion operations of the Bluegrass State has been played out in the past couple of years by younger stallions such as Yes It's True and Successful Appeal in 2004 and Songandaprayer in 2005.

Both Successful Appeal and Songandaprayer migrated north from Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds-Walmac South in Florida to Walmac's operation in Kentucky. Yes It's True stood at Padua in Florida before Three Chimneys Farm and clients purchased an interest in the horse and moved him to Kentucky.

These sires have followed in the footsteps of horses who raced with speed and precocity, went to stud in Florida, were supported by local breeders with mares of similar traits, and then moved to Kentucky with a more expensive stud fee after they had proven themselves able stallions from the racing performances of their early stock.

Breeders in Kentucky weren't exactly clueless about the value of this approach in making stallions. For example, the Brookdale Farm stallion Forest Wildcat had proven very popular with 2-year-old buyers and had started his career in Kentucky at a $10,000 fee before success with his racing stock increased it to $35,000 in 2006.

Among other Kentucky farms, Walmac reaped significant benefits from its investment in Successful Appeal and Songandaprayer. Walmac already owned a portion of each horse when their runners began to succeed on the track and was in position to manage the stallion in Kentucky.

As this pattern of beginning stallions in Florida succeeded to differing degrees over the past 15 years or so, several other farms in Kentucky began to explore the principles involved, especially the value of selecting stallion prospects of exceptional speed and outstanding physical type, and began to apply them without the intermediate step of standing the horse in Florida.

This practice bore fruit for several operations in Kentucky with the freshmen sire class of 2005. Among the leading freshmen sires of 2005 were El Corredor (Hill 'n' Dale), Ecton Park (Wintergreen), Five Star Day (Wintergreen), and Forest Camp (Airdrie), as well as Songandaprayer.

All of these young sires enjoyed a warm reception at the juvenile sales in early 2005, and each had significant success on the racetrack last year. Their offspring also rated well on the factors used by the horsemen consulting DataTrack International, the company that produces Breeze Figs for buyers and consignors, and as a handicapping tool for Daily Racing Form.

Robert Fierro, co-developer of Breeze Figs, contends that the relationship among stride, speed, and power for predicting stallion success as a sire of 2-year-olds has been consistent.

"One of the things that has been proven conclusively," Fierro said, "and it was not something that people agreed with in the 90's, or even before then, was that a stallion who was an outstanding 2-year-old might not necessarily be a sire of precocious 2-year-olds himself.

"From our studies, the converse actually emerged. Stallions who were not necessarily top-class 2-year-olds themselves but who were outstanding sprinters or milers stand a very good chance of becoming excellent sires because they pass along the inherent factors for speed. Examples of this include Belong to Me, Cherokee Run, Crafty Prospector, Elusive Quality, Forest Wildcat, French Deputy, Glitterman, Mr. Greeley, Not for Love, and Northern Afleet.

"All of them turned out to be sires of horses that caught the eye while they were breezing at the 2-year-old sales and in many cases surprised a lot of very experienced horsemen."

The physical characteristics that most of these stallions share are outstanding physical balance and great muscularity. These traits help to produce the combination of stride with power that allows a horse to race at high speed from an early age.

The young stallions who can produce offspring who can race quickly have great demand for their yearlings and 2-year-olds. This is due in part to the fact that many of the more successful selectors in the highly competitive pinhooking market have refined their criteria to a basic formula.

Mike McMahon, who buys yearlings and 2-year-olds for individual clients and for a partnership that sells racehorses in training, begins his evaluation of prospects early.

"I look for stallions that throw a good, consistent type," he said. "They need to have size and strength, along with a good hind leg. And for me, the freshman sire last year was Forest Camp. He was essentially throwing big Quarter Horses."

Noting that many of the most successful people in the pinhooking game began working with Quarter Horses, McMahon said that the "trick is finding the stallions with enough of the right qualities to allow their runners to run two turns. From the freshman crop of 2005, Five Star Day, Ecton Park, and Forest Camp have already shown that their runners can do it."

In addition to these stallions and more proven horses, the juvenile sales also provide a preview of the first runners for the freshmen sires of 2006. Judging from the sales results last year, the new sires who will have increasing demand for their offspring include Buddha (by Unbridled's Song, who is also the sire of Songandaprayer), sprint champion Orientate (with a number of his best yearling prospects having sold to owners who race rather than resell), and the top-class juvenile Officer (a big, powerful horse who was an early 2-year-old who won at a mile in New York).

Other freshmen sires who will be well-represented at the 2-year-old sales include champion juvenile Johannesburg, as well as the Grade 1 winners Yonaguska and Include. These three had real success with their first-crop yearlings in 2005, and they may continue to find favor with buyers at the sales of 2-year-olds.

The best auction prospects by these young stallions will be offered at the juvenile sales over the next 90 days. These young athletes will be tested under rigorous conditions, and the best will attract high prices. But among the precocious and talented, there may be more major winners in waiting, such as 2005 standouts Brother Derek, Henny Hughes, Stevie Wonderboy, and Adieu.