07/08/2004 11:00PM

Kidnapped colt recovered

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The kidnapping of Argentina's leading juvenile, Forty Mirage, on the brink of being imported to the United States by Team Valor's Barry Irwin, ended Friday afternoon with the recovery of the horse not far from where he had been abducted near Tandil, Argentina.

The four-length winner of the one-mile Group 1 Estrellas Juvenile at the Hipodromo Argentino on June 21, Forty Mirage had been taken from his stall at a training center 220 miles south of Buenos Aires on Wednesday night.

"Apparently, someone drove into the stable area with a van and just rode off with him," Irwin said after having received word from a Chilean bloodstock agent, Fernando Fantini, that the horse had been located. "He was found at an army shooting range not very far from where he had been taken."

Forty Mirage was under the care of his current owner, Angel Alfredo Mattei, when he was taken. Irwin, who has a contract to buy Forty Mirage, a 3-year-old Southern Hemisphere-foaled son of Roar, was awaiting the final vetting procedure when he learned of the incident Friday morning.

With the local police and the national army called out to search for the horse, the Argentine daily La Nacion reported that the unknown kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 300,000 pesos, or $102,000.

"If all is in order after we get the vet's report," said Irwin, "we will send him to Dubai, where he will be trained by Mike de Kock for the UAE Derby in March."