04/08/2008 11:00PM

Langfuhr colt's speed catches up with his looks

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - At Monday's under-tack preview for the Keeneland April 2-year-old sale, workout times were generally very fast. Seven 2-year-olds breezed an eighth of a mile in under 10 seconds, and the fastest among them, at 9.6 seconds, was Cool Coal Man's half-brother.

The Langfuhr colt, who was to sell as Hip No. 7 Tuesday night at the auction's opening session, has been a lucky horse so far for consignor Niall Brennan. Brennan and a group of partners purchased the colt for $135,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale. At the time, two factors might have caused other buyers to pass: the gray colt was a late foal, born on May 22, 2006, and he was from an unproven family.

Seven months later, much has changed. The colt's relative youth versus his peers obviously didn't prevent him from firing a bullet work at the under-tack show. And his family got hot in a hurry not long after Brennan and Co. bought him. First, half-sister Kathleens Reel won a stakes race in Louisiana at the end of December. The pedigree got an even bigger boost in class when Cool Coal Man, pointing for the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday, won the Fountain of Youth in February.

Brennan said he had no inside information on either Cool Coal Man or Kathleens Reel when he spotted the Langfuhr colt last September.

"He was late in the sale, and he was just an individual that caught our eye," he said. "He'd make your short list just looking at him. He didn't look like a May foal even back in September. He was a mature colt in his body."

The speedy youngster still has some growing up to do mentally, Brennan said.

"He doesn't look like a May foal, but he still acts like it," he said. "There's ton of improvement in him, I think.

"And if his half-brother happens to win the Blue Grass or the Derby," he added, "he could be a very astute buy for somebody else."

Ex-rider is new consignor

One of the newer consignors at Keeneland this week knows his way around a racetrack better than most. He is former jockey Eugene Sipus Jr., 48, now a yearling-to-juvenile reseller, or pinhooker. Sipus and his wife, Kristin, who also gallops horses, sell horses in the name of their Florida operation, Richwood South.

"I rode for 20 years and was fortunate to win a couple thousand races and around a hundred stakes," he said. "I got into this because it was a sector of the industry that would get me back into the stalls, where I first started from back in '77," he said. "I thought, 'I know a lot of people, and I want to get back to the roots of my horsemanship.'"

Sipus only gets on the horses in his own consignment, and he is one of the few 2-year-old sellers to get aboard their horses for breeze shows, which demand more speed than the average racetrack work. At a select 2-year-old sale, an eighth-mile in 11 seconds is considered by many sellers and buyers to be on the slow side.

"It's a whole different style from race-riding," Sipus said. "I had to watch films of other breeze riders. It's a whole different way of approaching the pole and gallop-out times, setting a horse up and training them to set up to breeze.

"You couldn't take a rider that rides races in the afternoon out here and ask them to do this. You'd see a lot of horses going in 11 and change and 12. The first horse I pinhooked, I approached it like I would have breezing horses for a trainer in the morning. He went in 11 and 3, and I made $40 on the horse after six months' work.

"It's a different way of throwing crosses on a horse, a different way of hitting them. You can't hit them too much or the buyers will walk away from them."

Sipus points out that horses have different styles that dictate the strategy a breeze-show rider must take to get the best performance at an under-tack preview. A long-striding horse, for example, might need extra distance to get into full stride before tripping the timer.

"So you're actually leaving the pole at maybe the three-sixteenths even if you're breezing an eighth, because you have to be in full swing when you hit the teletimer," he explained. "Maybe a shorter-striding horse or a more rocket, drop-down style horse doesn't need that much room to get to the pole. By riding them every day ourselves, we get a pretty good feel for what the horse needs and how he likes to approach the pole."

But some things, Sipus said, are just like his old race-riding days.

"There's still track bias, and there are tailwinds and headwinds," he said. "You still have to know the best part of the track."

Fatal fracture under-tack

There was a death Monday at the under-tack show. Hip No. 43, a Jump Start half-brother to Precise End, fractured his left hind tibia and was euthanized after completing an eighth-mile breeze in 10.60 seconds. His exercise rider was unhurt.

"I'm not used to going to a breeze show and even thinking this might happen," said the colt's consignor, Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock. Thomas, who called this type of injury "unusual," noted that Keeneland staff and veterinarians responded quickly when the horse stumbled and appeared off in his stride.

"They did everything they could," she said.

Thomas bred the Jump Start colt in partnership with Lewis Lakin and James Kintz.