06/26/2002 11:00PM

Leigh succeeded as double threat


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Englishman Gerald Leigh, who died last weekend at age 71, was a rarity in Thoroughbred breeding: a prominent home-breeder who also found success in the auction ring.

Breeders and buyers were impressed by Leigh's deft dismissal of the traditional wisdom that you can't do both. But Alexandra Scrope, Leigh's longtime matings advisor, said recently that he had a simple formula for crossing that divide successfully: select for racing quality, not sales-ring fashion.

Leigh's breeding program at Eydon Hall Stud earned respect both by scooping big-race wins and posting big auction prices. Leigh-bred stars included 1994 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Barathea, who raced in Sheikh Mohammed's colors after the sheikh paid $3 million for a 75 percent interest in the colt as a foal. Leigh's own stable featured such runners as Group 1 winners Act One, Gossamer, and Markofdistinction. But he also bred high-priced sales graduates like English classic winner Bosra Sham, a 530,000-guinea yearling.

"His philosophy was that if you bred a racehorse, the commercial end looked after itself," Scrope said. "The money would come if you produced runners, but the primary target for Gerald was breeding a racehorse."

How did Leigh accomplish success in both arenas when other breeders don't? First of all, few breeders try to sell seriously while racing homebreds, preferring to focus on one or the other.

"And I think he thought about it more," Scrope said. "He started breeding before it became as commercial as it is now in Kentucky, and he had the attitude of the old American and English owner-breeders, that the name of the game was breeding a good racehorse. He always played the long game. He never followed fashion, unless he considered fashion to be going in the right direction."

Scrope said Leigh was methodical in his choice of mares and stallions and looked beyond whatever pedigree was hot at the moment.

"If he had a successful mare or filly in training, within her first three seasons at stud he'd aim to breed a filly from her that would provide the next generation of that family in his broodmare band," she said. "That often meant using a less fashionable sire who was a good broodmare sire. Once he had the next generation safeguarded in that way, the underpinning set, he could go on and sell other foals. If a family was successful for him, he would build on it."

One of those families sprang from his purchase of Canton Silk, whose daughter Brocade became one of Leigh's outstanding producers. Brocade is the dam of Barathea and Gossamer.

"Brocade seemed to come out of nowhere," Scrope said. "Her dam, Canton Silk, had ability, but the main reason Gerald bought her was because he had seen her race and knew that she gave her all. It was her courage, really, that made him buy her."

Months before his death, Leigh had begun finding good fillies in the southern hemisphere.

"Three months ago, he bought Sixty Seconds," said Scrope, referring to a 3-year-old New Zealand-bred filly by the Australian sire Centaine. "She was not a group stakes filly when he bought her, but after he did she won a Group 2 in New Zealand and a Group 1 in Australia. He liked her not only because her sire is a successful sire of racehorses, but also because he is a successful broodmare sire. And she's not from the Northern Dancer line, so she'd make a good mare to breed here.

"That was his wonderful attention to detail that gave him this Group 1 winner in Australia. It amused him to challenge the world."

Ingoldsby euthanized at 17

Ingoldsby, dam of Grade 1 winner Formal Gold, died at the Hagyard Davidson McGee clinic on June 19. Veterinarians euthanized the mare because of a ruptured intestine. She was 17.

"She was a dream come true for a small breeder," said Rodes Kelly, owner of The Meadows near Georgetown, Ky. "She helped us beat the odds for a four-broodmare operation, and we don't ever expect to have another like her."

Ingoldsby, a daughter of Screen King, produced stakes-winner Maple Lake from her first mating. But her best foal was Formal Gold, a son of Black Tie Affair (Ire). He won a pair of Grade 1 races, the Donn Handicap and Woodward Stakes, as well as the Grade 2 Philip H. Iselin and Brooklyn handicaps in 1997.

Ingoldsby left a 2002 Miswaki filly that Rodes and Cathie Kelly will keep. At the time of her death, she was carrying an Unbridled's Song foal the couple had in a foal-share agreement with jockey Mike Smith.