10/09/2002 11:00PM

Lawbook's breeders used their Notebook


LEXINGTON, Ky. - One of the highlights of the Festival of the Sun at Calder Race Course on Saturday will be the attempt by the juvenile colt Lawbook to sweep the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series. Lawbook already has won the first two parts of the series, the Dr. Fager on Aug. 10 and the Affirmed on Aug. 31, and now will test his statebred peers in the In Reality, a $400,000 stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

The In Reality is the most valuable race in the Florida Stallion Stakes series, and victory in it is a significant accomplishment. Lawbook's breeders, Steve and Beverly Tortora, have a small farm near Ocala, Fla. So breeding a horse like Lawbook is an important mark for them. A victory would be even sweeter, since they bred a full brother to Lawbook named Rulebook, and he ran second in last year's In Reality.

Both colts are by the accomplished stallion Notebook, who stands at Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud. Notebook has sired Grade 1 winners Delaware Township, who won the Forego Handicap, and Three Ring, who won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. A 17-year-old stallion, Notebook also has sired more than two dozen other stakes winners.

Notebook represents one of the most successful branches of the Bold Ruler line not tracing from Seattle Slew, and he is perennially among the state's leading sires. As a result of the horse's success, many breeders have tried to improve the quality of mares they send to Notebook, hoping for better prices from yearling sales and better results on the racetrack.

Steve Tortora said, "I own a share in Notebook, and we were looking for a little better mare to send to him. So my wife and I bought a mare in Kentucky" at the Keeneland November sale in 1997. The Tortoras picked up the Java Gold mare Gold Parody for $9,000 in foal to Lines of Power, and the mare became the dam of Lawbook.

An unraced half-sister to the stakes winner Political Whit (by Lines of Power), who raced mostly in Texas, Gold Parody had a pedigree that really appealed to Steve Tortora, and he liked the foals she produced. "We got the Lines of Power out of her, and then I bred her to Notebook twice. The first foal from that mating was Rulebook and the second was Lawbook."

Gold Parody is by Travers winner Java Gold, who is also the sire of sprint champion Kona Gold. Although a high-class racehorse, Java Gold did not sustain a consistent commercial appeal for breeders in this country, and he was exported to stand in Germany. After Rulebook showed promise on the track, his dam became an appealing commodity, however, and the Tortoras sold Gold Parody through the Briggs and Cromartie bloodstock agency last December. The mare was in foal to the Danzig stallion Outflanker at the time and was bred back to Notebook this year.

As it is with many other Thoroughbred breeders, horse breeding is a business for the Tortoras.

"We breed to sell them as yearlings. But we bought back Lawbook at the select yearling sale last year," Tortora said. "We sold through my sister's consignment, Benchmark," at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's select yearling sale in August last year, and the Tortoras bought the colt back for $47,000.

"When you breed yearlings, you either have to sell them for whatever the market offers or be prepared to take them to the next step," Tortora said. "And we were prepared to put him in training and sell him the next year, probably after he had won his maiden."

That wasn't necessary, however. "About a week or so after the sale, Mr. Heard called and asked if he was still for sale," Tortora said. "We had wanted $50,000 for him in August, and that was about what we got for him. We thought he was a little better physically than his brother at that age, and it has turned out great for everybody."

Thomas Heard, who bought the colt from Tortora, is the owner and trainer of Lawbook, and he has sent the colt out to victories in the first two legs in the Florida Stallion Stakes series.

If Lawbook succeeds in winning the In Reality, he will become only the fifth 2-year-old colt to win the series. The winners so far are Smile (1984), Naked Greed (1991), Seacliff (1995), and Express Tour (2000). After showing their best against Florida-bred competition, Smile and Express Tour ran well against the best racehorses in the world.

Smile won the 1986 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita and was named the Eclipse Award champion sprinter for that year. Bred and raced by Frances Genter, Smile won 14 races and more than $1.6 million in purses during his four seasons of racing.

Express Tour has had an even more adventurous career than Smile, who raced from coast to coast. Express Tour, however, was sold to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin racing stable after Express Tour's successes in the Florida series impressed the Godolphin advisers.

After the sale, Godolphin shipped Express Tour to Dubai, where the handsome chestnut was trained with the next year's American classics as his goal. Express Tour did, in fact, defeat Street Cry in one of the classic trials in Dubai, and both came over for the Kentucky Derby. An injury put Street Cry on the sidelines, however, and Express Tour did not show his best form in the Derby. But he bounced back and showed his ability last season and also this year at 4 against high-level competition.