06/22/2006 11:00PM

Mare who escaped death, twice


Yvonne Schwabe saved the life of her mare Shebandowana not once but twice, and spent a small fortune in the process.

Now the mare is repaying her owner big-time, as her son Wanna Runner, owned now by American Mike Pegram, will head to the gate for Sunday's Queen's Plate as the heavy favorite.

"I am excited and nervous," said Schwabe, 45, who operates her family's Persley Den Farms in Acton, Ontario. "It's amazing to have a legitimate horse in the Queen's Plate."

Legitimate indeed, since Wanna Runner is essentially the boss of the Plate on Beyer Speed Figures.

Schwabe paid just $6,000 for Shebandowana (a daughter of little-known Ontario sire Mt. Magazine) in 1997, rescuing the leg-sore mare before she was scheduled to run at Fort Erie.

"I had been out of town and I saw her 2-year-old brother, Time Limit, win his maiden, and he looked like a nice horse," said Schwabe.

That was shrewd thinking by Schwabe, as Time Limit went on to win the Tremont Stakes that season and the Hutcheson and Spectacular Bid stakes the next year.

But a month after buying the 5-year-old mare, Schwabe was shocked to find Shebandowana in a pool of blood in her stall one day, suffering from a guttural pouch hemorrhage.

"I had never heard of that problem before, but it was like 30 people had been lined up in her stall and shot," she said. "You have no idea how much blood there is in a horse."

After a very complicated surgery, Shebandowana returned to Schwabe's farm, only to hemorrhage again. Following yet another surgery, the mare remarkably recovered and has never been inflicted again.

"I was determined to save her, but I spent a whole lot more on the surgeries than I did to buy her," Schwabe said. "I just loved her."

Because of the surgeries, every foal Shebandowana has for Schwabe must be bottle-fed for the first 48 hours in order for the mare's milk to generate.

After the mare's first foal died, Shebandowana produced three offspring by Gilded Time, the sire of Time Limit, and two were winners.

When Schwabe saw Hill 'n' Dale Farms's new sire El Corredor (by Mr. Greeley) four years ago, she fell in love and sent Shebandowana to his court.

Wanna Runner landed on the scene three years ago this past February, and he didn't take long to make his presence known.

"He was always a very beautiful foal and even better looking as a yearling," said Schwabe. "And he was very precocious and always a bit on the muscle, but he was never mean."

Schwabe thought she would get more for Wanna Runner as a yearling at the New Sire Showcase portion of the 2004 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale, but took the $80,000 bid by Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert.

It only took gelding surgery for Wanna Runner to prove himself as a top 3-year-old in the United States and one of the best Canadian-breds of his generation.

Schwabe's success as a Thoroughbred breeder is no surprise since she comes from a long line of accomplished horse people. Her grandmother Erika Von Lovetzow was a pioneering female jockey and rode in Germany. Her grandfather Theodore Schwabe was a trainer.

In 1961, Schwabe's father, Carl, purchased the 200-acre Persley Den and bred many top runners, including Centenarian and Dance Corps.

These days, Schwabe and her mother, Dagmar, live on the farm and operate a family breeding and boarding operation, which can number up to 65 horses during peak season.

And while her phone has started to ring with inquiries about the prospect of selling Shebandowana, Schwabe has resisted.

Shebandowana has an unnamed 2-year-old by El Corredor, a Kafwain yearling filly Schwabe hopes to sell at Keeneland in September, and a Chapel Royal filly at her side.

Of course, the mare is back in foal to El Corredor.

And there are other success stories in Schwabe's small broodmare band.

She purchased stakes winner Irish Cherry for $80,000 as a broodmare in 2004 and then reveled in the success of the mare's daughter Spun Sugar, who won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes last year.

Last fall, Schwabe sold Daaher, a full brother to Spun Sugar by Awesome Again, to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin for $375,000. Schwabe will sell the mare's Sky Mesa colt in September at Keeneland.

She has since sold Irish Cherry privately.

Another of Schwabe's mares, Jingle Berry, is the dam of the promising maiden winner Holly Time.

"I'm proud of what my horses have done from a small group of mares," said Schwabe. "It's great not only for me but for my staff at the farm, especially for my managers, Brian and Lorie Ferguson. They are my backbone.

"And the best part is that it's so flattering because people are cheering for me and Wanna Runner."