03/10/2006 12:00AM

Leatherbury and Ah Day's bloodlines go way back

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Legendary Maryland trainer King Leatherbury has also been quite successful in the breeding business - reaching a high mark in the 1980's and 90's with the Maryland-bred champions Thirty Eight Go Go and Notches Trace, daughters of his foundation mare Dronette.

Proving that his homebreds, as well as his training skills, are still a force to be reckoned with, the 72-year-old Leatherbury sent out the gelding Ah Day to a longshot victory in Laurel Park's Horatius Stakes on March 4.

Ah Day (by Malibu Moon), a 3-year-old grandson of Dronette, has yet to win full-fledged esteem from his trainer.

"I'm not going to get too high on him right now, but at least I can catch up on all my bills," Leatherbury said.

Leatherbury expected Ah Day to finish no better than third in the Horatius, which drew top local contenders Great Seneca and Rainbow Inthestorm, trained, respectively, by brothers Gary and Dale Capuano.

But the two favorites engaged in an early speed contest, blitzing through fractions of 21.87 seconds for a quarter-mile and 45.20 for half, paving the way for Ah Day. He passed the tiring rivals and completed the six furlongs in 1:11.26, paying $24.40 to win and earning a relatively impressive Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

It was the fifth career start for Ah Day, who has raced exclusively at Laurel. He won his maiden in his second start, a front-running score in a five-furlong maiden special weight on Dec. 21, and came right back to place second (beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Great Seneca) in the 5 1/2-furlong Dancing Count Stakes on Jan. 1. Stretched out to a mile in allowance company on Feb. 2, he finished third, in his least-inspiring performance to date. The stakes victory boosted Ah Day's earnings to $78,680.

Ah Day (the name has its origins in a native American language, and was chosen by Leatherbury's wife, Linda) is out of the 12-year-old mare Endette, whose sire, Thirty Eight Paces, helped boost Leatherbury's training career.

"We named her Endette because she was the last foal out of Dronette - the end," said Leatherbury.

Leatherbury's association with Dronette (a 1978 daughter of Drone-Stacey d'Ette, by Pago Pago) began in 1982, when he bought her at a Timonium auction for $57,000, in partnership with Hermen Greenberg. At the time, Dronette was carrying her first foal, a Seclusive colt named Lone Roan, who became a stakes-placed earner of $53,636.

Dronette's second foal, Notches Trace (1983, by Lord Gaylord), won or placed in nine stakes, including a victory in the Grade 3 Betsy Ross Handicap, earning $360,562. She was named champion Maryland-bred handicap mare in 1988.

Notches Trace was sold privately by Leatherbury for $85,000 in the fall of her 3-year-old season, and ran most of her career for other connections. But Leatherbury maintained close ties to Dronette's star performer Thirty Eight Go Go (1985, Thirty Eight Paces) after selling her for $17,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern fall yearling sale.

Thirty Eight Go Go was purchased at that sale by Leatherbury's longtime friends Morgan and Janet Wayson, who turned her over to him to train. In 46 starts over five seasons, she won or placed in 21 stakes. Thirty Eight Go Go attained graded-stakes-winning status at 2, with victories in the Grade 2 Gardenia and Grade 3 Tempted, and was twice Grade 1-placed. She was twice voted a Maryland-bred divisional champion, and concluded her career with earnings of $871,229.

Dronette went on to produce a fourth stakes performer, Twofox, also by Thirty Eight Paces.

Endette retired as a maiden after 14 starts, but, thanks to her, Dronette's legacy is far from over.

All three of Endette's foals of racing age are winners. Next to Ah Day, her best offspring is the 5-year-old gelding Due (by Rinka Das), an allowance winner of $84,360. Endette, one of three broodmares (all daughters of Dronette) currently owned by Leatherbury, has a 2-year-old filly, Dixiette, by Swear by Dixie, a yearling Crowd Pleaser filly, and on Feb. 26 produced a daughter by Parker's Storm Cat.