03/14/2003 12:00AM

Looks and speed add up to record


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Storm Cat mystique has struck again. A 2-year-old son of freshman sire Sea of Secrets (by Storm Cat out of Love From Mom, by Mr. Prospector) brought a world-record price for a juvenile in training last week at the Barretts select sale.

Consigned by Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock, the handsome chestnut colt sold for $2.7 million to Charles Fipke, a geologist and an entrepreneur in diamonds and precious metals. Bidding for Fipke was his trainer, Bob Baffert, to whose barn the record-priced colt will go.

A well-balanced colt, the Sea of Secrets colt was so nicely made and progressive that he was chosen for last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky select yearling sale. Thomas purchased him there for $30,000. Although the sum is tiny in comparison with last week's record, the colt's initial sale price was the third-highest for any yearling by Sea of Secrets last year.

The elements that transformed the colt from a moderately priced yearling into a record-priced 2-year-old are straightforward. He made the transition to budding racehorse in excellent style, showing high speed in his preview trial at Barretts, and he has the look and presence of a Storm Cat.

Speed is the first essential of a top racehorse, and as the 2-year-old sales prove year after year, the young stock who show high speed will bring prices out of proportion to their pedigree. These are the horses who are closest to being ready-made racing stock, and owners who want the action, who want to see their horses race and win, like the 2-year-old sales.

In contrast, the principal component of value at yearling sales is conformation and pedigree. These still count at the sales of young horses in training, and when they are up to par, the sky is the limit. Just last month, Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud sold its first million-dollar 2-year-old when a Montbrook colt went for $1.2 million, and another Montbrook colt, Trust N Luck, was one of the favorites in Saturday's Florida Derby.

But the pedigree on the Sea of Secrets colt didn't change between last summer and last week. He was already a half-brother to stakes winner Friendly Spirit when he went through the sales ring at Fasig-Tipton as part of the Four Star Sales consignment.

Bred in Kentucky by John T. L. Jones, the colt is by Walmac stallion Sea of Secrets. A graded stakes winner by Storm Cat, Sea of Secrets was once thought of as a Kentucky Derby prospect, and he has a very good family close up in his pedigree.

Sea of Secrets is one of four stakes winners out of the Mr. Prospector mare Love from Mom. This mare is an example of the producers who have made Mr. Prospector a leading broodmare sire. Mr. Prospector's daughters, even those who, like the unraced Love from Mom, didn't succeed at the track, have been tremendous producers of winners and stakes winners.

Bred and raced by Irving and Marjorie Cowan and trained by Neil Drysdale, Sea of Secrets began his racing career at 2 with two wins from two starts, and then won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes early at 3. Shortly thereafter, Coolmore acquired an interest in Sea of Secrets. This was in early 1998, and already Coolmore had put its weight behind Storm Cat as the next sire of sires.

This perception, when aided by good looks, high speed, and the equine version of a movie star's charisma, makes the offspring of Storm Cat and his sons the equivalent of dynamite with hooves.

They look good, they run fast, and they won't back up from a brick wall. Instead, they will run through it.

Sea of Secrets clearly had ability: In addition to his graded win, he also defeated champion sprinter Artax at six furlongs. Minor problems prevented him from showing his best after his 3-year-old season, although he stayed in training at 4 and 5 and made one start each year. The last two years in training dulled the sheen of his early reputation, and Sea of Secrets entered to stud for only $7,500 in 2000.

As Coolmore already had several sons of Storm Cat standing at its American base, Ashford Stud, Sea of Secrets was sent to Walmac. The sales staff there has filled his book with a solid number of mares annually, and the stallion has gotten very positive reviews on his 2-year-olds.