05/12/2010 11:00PM

Machowsky lands a star on a hunch


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Mike Machowsky didn't pore over pedigree histories or nicking analyses when he planned the mating that produced Caracortado. It was, as he recalls, a pretty simple decision.

"I'd like to say I really researched it, but, no, a friend of mine was standing Cat Dreams," he said. "I've always liked the Storm Cat line, so I took a shot and got lucky, I guess."

The mating of Cat Dreams, then a $4,000 sire, and Machowsky's mare Mons Venus has resulted in probably the best runner Machowsky has saddled since multiple Grade 1 winner Southern Image.

Machowsky and a couple of partners bought Mons Venus eight years ago for $45,000 as a yearling.

"She looked like a racehorse," said Machowsky.

But Mons Venus, a Maria's Mon filly, had trouble.

"I turned her out about three different times," Machowsky said. "I'd get her up to working about five-eighths, and her ankles would start filling up on her, and she'd start tying up. She never had any fractures, but I couldn't get beyond that point with her. But she always acted like she could really run, so I want to take a shot and breed her."

Machowsky's partners had no interest in breeding, so they gave her to him.

So far, Caracortado has won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes and the California Breeders' Champion Stakes and finished second in the Grade 2 San Felipe.

Not long ago, Machowsky said, a man showed him a book analyzing pedigree nicks, rating crosses of various bloodlines.

"He looked up Maria's Mon mares bred to Storm Cat sires in this book that was a couple of years old, and it had that as either C+ or B nicking," Machowsky said. "After Caracortado won the Bob Lewis, we read somewhere that now it's something like an A++ nick."

Machowsky has stuck with that nick Caracortado has improved: Mons Venus is pregnant to Giant's Causeway on a foal-share agreement with Ashford Stud.

A.P. Indy, Mr. Prospector a nice mix again

Breeder John Little always had faith in Schoolyard Dreams, well before the colt became a Preakness contender.

When the yearling Schoolyard Dreams brought only $8,500 at the 2008 Keeneland September sale, Little, a Lexington, Ky., anesthesiologist, bought him back and put him in training until Eric Fein and Tony Mitola came calling with an offer he didn't want to refuse.

Little, 43, won't say how much he sold Schoolyard Dreams for, but it easily justified his decision to reject that early $8,500 auction price.

Little first spotted Schoolyard Dreams's dam, Hear This, when she was a weanling at the 2000 Keeneland January sale. A Prospector's Music filly, she sold to Oak Lawn Farm for $3,700 but turned up for sale again the next month in Arkansas. This time, Little bought her for $10,000.

On paper, Hear This appears to have been a disappointment on the track. She won twice and finished second twice in six lifetime starts. But Little saw talent in her debut, which she won by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:10.30 for six furlongs, and in a second-place finish behind track-record-setter Savorthetime.

"She was a talented mare, but she chipped a knee twice, so we had to take her out of training," Little said. "She was a pure sprinter, so I bred her to Stephen Got Even to try to get some more length out of her. And she's a Mr. Prospector-line mare bred to an A.P. Indy-line stallion, which has been commonly tried and has worked."

Little had tried the Stephen Got Even-Hear This cross once before to little effect. But that foal, a one-race winner named Stephenville, had a crooked leg. Schoolyard Dreams, Little said, did not. But then the economy crashed just days before Schoolyard Dreams was to sell through the Crossroads agency.

It all worked out for the best, as far as Little is concerned. And he's breeding Hear This back to Stephen Got Even again this year.

"I breed to try to raise the best horse," Little said. "I was just trying to breed the best racehorse I could out of the mare."

Quick turnaround with Archduchess

Whatever Pleasant Prince does in the Preakness, he has already been a financial boon to longtime Louisiana breeder William Boorhem.

With his late wife, Pat, who died in 2008, Boorhem built Foxwood Plantation in Belcher, La., into one of the state's top Thoroughbred breeding operations with such runners as their homebred Zarb's Magic, winner of the 1996 Arkansas Derby. Today, Boorhem stands the stallions Zarbyev, Combat Ready, and Run Plantation and keeps a band of about 20 broodmares for them. He added Pleasant Prince's dam, Archduchess, to that group in November 2007, when he paid $12,000 for her at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

"I just liked her breeding, and she matched up with the stallions I stand," Boorhem, 87, said of the unraced Pleasant Tap mare. "We went to Kentucky every year and bought two or three, whenever we saw ones we liked that fit the horses we had. You've got to keep stirring the cake."

When Boorhem bought Archduchess, she already had produced Pleasant Prince for Adena Springs, but Boorhem benefited from the colt's success after his narrow loss to Ice Box in the Florida Derby.

In early April, breeder Peter Blum purchased Archduchess privately and shipped her to Kentucky.

"We bought her for $12,000 and sold her for almost $100,000," Boorhem said. "That doesn't happen to you very often. I've bought them for $100,000 and gotten $12,000 for them sometimes."

In light of the market downturn, the proceeds from Archduchess's lucky sale are especially welcome.

"I'm delighted he's done so well," Boorhem said of Pleasant Prince's success. "And I hope the people who bought Archduchess do well, too. Because you've got to do good to stay in this business."