09/04/2003 11:00PM

Leggs sorry to lose Roger E


Pennsylvania's Day at the Races on Aug. 30, the celebration for state breeders that included five stakes worth a total of a quarter-million dollars, brought many visitors to Philadelphia Park. Among them were members of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association's board of directors, including Roger E. Legg and his wife Gayle.

The Leggs, who own the 28-acre Highland Eyrie Farm near Cochranville, Pa. and have maintained a small breeding operation for more than 30 years, stayed as long as possible before heading home to take care of their equine residents, which number about a dozen. Leaving early, they missed one of their biggest triumphs as breeders.

Roger E, a 4-year-old colt by Alyten bred by the Leggs and foaled at Highland Eyrie, scored his first stakes victory, defeating heavily favored Docent in the final added-money event on the card, the Devil's Honor Handicap.

Sent off as second choice in the eight-horse field, Roger E carried second high weight of 122, getting eight pounds from Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Daney's heavily-burdened Docent, who carried, by today's standards, a nearly unheard of 130 pounds.

Roger E broke quickly and poured it on from there. Setting fractions of 22.88, 45.41, 1:09.44, he stopped the clock in 1:21.99 for seven furlongs while drawing off to win by six lengths. Docent tracked him the entire trip and finished second.

The victory boosted Roger E's earnings to $195,968 from 23 starts, which the Leggs would find much more thrilling had they still owned him. Roger E competes for the nation's leading owner, Mike Gill, and trainer Mark Shuman, who snatched him from the Leggs for $25,000 out of a claiming race at Laurel Park in March 2002.

"It was a real surprise when he was claimed," said Gayle Legg. "He had run only a couple of times and had just broken his maiden at Philadelphia Park for the same price three weeks earlier. We [the Leggs and trainer James P. Connor III] thought no one would notice him in Maryland."

Since the claim, Roger E has risen up the ladder, running in allowances, optional claimers - some for a tag as high as $150,000 at Gulfstream Park - and stakes. This past spring at Gulfstream, Roger E finished third to Best of the Rest and Consistency in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap, beaten a length after leading nearly the entire 1 1/16 miles.

The Leggs raced the majority of their homebreds and have produced veteran runners throughout the years. Royal Duel, sold by the couple as a yearling, competed in stakes in the early 1980's and won the Morristown Stakes while earning $129,250. As Roger E was growing up, the Leggs thought the colt was much like their tough allowance runner Something Ringing, who won 17 races and earned $155,796 over seven seasons and is now Gayle's riding horse. Something Ringing is a half-brother to Something Brazen, the dam of Roger E.

Something Brazen (by White Rammer), a granddaughter of the first Thoroughbred ever purchased by the Leggs, the unraced mare Stablegirl (by the little-known Tom Fool stallion Fool's Paint), produced Roger E as her first foal. The Leggs currently own the mare's 3-year-old, a gelding named Brazen Bomber who has yet to break his maiden and is currently at the farm for rest. And they own a yearling colt by Willard Scott named Brazen Scotty, but did not breed Something Brazen for 2003.

Something Brazen is currently in foal to Alyten, who stands at Peter Giangiulio's Castle Rock Farm in Unionville, Pa., just a few miles from the Leggs' farm.

"Something Brazen is line-bred to Turn-to, so we wanted a horse who was an outcross," Gayle Legg said. "Alyten was a nice race horse and conformation-wise, he seemed a good match.

Roger E is the first stakes winner from 28 starters for Alyten, a 15-year-old son of Alydar who was an eight-time stakes-placed winner of $274,884.

And as for Something Brazen's next foal? The Leggs are determined they will not let that one get away.