09/08/2005 11:00PM

Laity looks like star in the making

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The clerically disconnected now have a racehorse to root for. Claiborne Farm's homebred Laity, whose name denotes those who are not clergy, crushed his opposition by nearly a dozen lengths in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs on Labor Day, and the bay son of Claiborne stallion Pulpit has shown strong improvement in form as he comes to race at longer distances.

In his debut at Churchill Downs in June, Laity was unplaced at 5 1/2 furlongs. Trainer Frank Brothers stretched the colt out to a mile for his second start, when he won his maiden on Aug. 5 at Arlington.

"The Cradle Stakes was on our radar from day one," Brothers said. "He got some seasoning from his mile win at Arlington Park."

Whether it was the seasoning or just natural ability, Laity broke the stakes record in the Cradle, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.60.

Although the colt set the pace and controlled the race from the start, he wasn't acting like a horse who was speed-crazy.

"He's a horse with a really good mind," Brothers said. "I trained Trip, his half-sister, and he's just like her."

Being like Trip is a good thing. The chestnut daughter of Lord at War won 11 races from ages 3 through 5 and earned $888,773. Trip won three graded stakes, including two runnings of the Turfway Breeders' Cup, and she was a game and consistent racer.

If Laity has a reasonable portion of his half-sister's toughness, along with the sensible demeanor, the colt should provide Claiborne with a very serious racehorse. The colt's combination of speed and improvement with distance suggests that he has the scope necessary to race past nine furlongs in top company.

"All the Pulpits have scope," noted Claiborne's Seth Hancock. "So Laity is pretty typical in that regard, but he is more laid-back than most of the Pulpits, who can be a little hot."

Pulpit himself was a firecracker on the racetrack. Not only in the energy of his personality, but also in manner of his victories, Pulpit was an outstanding racehorse. Racing only at 3, the bay son of A.P. Indy impressed horsemen in Florida with quick victories in the winter and spring of 1997.

From six starts, he won four races, including the Fountain of Youth and Blue Grass. He was second in the Florida Derby and fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Pulpit injured a knee in the Derby and never raced again.

The best son of A.P. Indy from that stallion's excellent first crop, Pulpit is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Preach, a Grade 1 winner from one of Claiborne's best female families, tracing back through Narrate and State to Round Table's full sister Monarchy.

Monarchy and Round Table are both out of the talented racemare Knight's Daughter, whom A.B. "Bull" Hancock imported from England in the early 1950's.

So Pulpit represents generations of the best Claiborne Farm breeding, and given his chance as a sire at Claiborne, Pulpit has become one of the most popular stallions in the country. The sire of such stakes winners as Wend, Melhor Ainda, and Oratory in 2005, Pulpit also is developing a considerable following as a sire of stallions.

Pulpit's son Tapit, winner of the Wood Memorial, proved one of the most popular new stallions in Kentucky this year. Last year's Peter Pan winner, Purge, is the subject of great interest from stallion operations. And this year's Peter Pan winner, Oratory, has been sent to Maryland, where he will stand at Country Life Farm in 2006.

Laity is the sixth foal out of the Forty Niner mare Tour, who was a stakes winner of more than a quarter-million dollars. The mare's first two foals were Trip and stakes winner Joke (by Phone Trick), and Tour's four most recent foals are all by Pulpit.

The first is the winner Guide. Laity is the second. The third is a chestnut yearling filly who will be offered for sale at the Keeneland September yearling sale as Hip No. 689 on Sept. 14, and the fourth is a full brother to Laity born this year.

For operations that breed their own stock generation after generation, there is always a strong sense of history, but there is an equal sense of anticipation for what lies ahead. For Laity, the future will unfold race by race, and Brothers said, "While I can't be sure what's next, the Breeders' Futurity would seem to be the next logical step."