09/29/2003 11:00PM

Mass Media bred to go a distance


LAS VEGAS - With the Breeders' Cup only three weeks from Saturday, the countdown begins in earnest.

And while the spotlight on 2-year-old colts will focus mainly on the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita this weekend, the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland might yield a candidate as serious as any other for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

With most of the attention focused on the East and West coasts, Mass Media, who is based in the Louisiana, seems to have come in under the radar - despite winning his only two races in breathtaking style by a combined 22 lengths.

A victory by Mass Media in the Breeders' Futurity would certainly earn him a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he is bred not only to love 1 1/16-mile distance, but also to be even better as the distances increase next year when he is 3.

Mass Media is from the second crop of Touch Gold, who made a big splash last year as a freshman sire.

His first crop has thus far yielded stakes winners Composure, Midas Eyes, Region of Merit, and stakes-placed Powerful Touch. In addition to Mass Media, Touch Gold is also represented by the promising Bob Baffert-trained juvenile colt, Coldntight, whose fifth dam, Sin Igual, is a full sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault.

Mass Media has the pedigree to be a star. In addition to being sired by one of the hottest young stallions, he is out of the young Forty Niner mare Sultry Allure, a daughter of the remarkable stakes-winning and stakes-producing broodmare Sultry Sun.

While Sultry Allure was only a modest winner, she is a half-sister to stakes winners Sultry Song (Cox's Ridge), Solar Splendor (Majestic Light), and Strategic Mission (Mr. Prospector). Despite having an impressive pedigree, Sultry Allure was not a success as a racehorse, but like so many well-bred fillies, her true worth is as a broodmare. Sultry Allure is yet another example of how a mediocre record on the racetrack does not preclude a well-bred filly from becoming a treasure in the breeding shed.

By world-class sire Deputy Minister, Touch Gold comes from a prolific female family with Canadian roots. His dam, the Buckpasser mare Passing Mood, produced five major stakes winners, including 1989 Canadian Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old With Approval (Caro), who won the Canadian Triple Crown.

With Approval was a major stakes-winning turf runner in the U.S. and finished second in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Turf to In the Wings.

Passing Mood's other stakes winners are Bar U Mood (Saratoga Six), Sweeping Change (Secretariat), and Touch Gold's full sister, Daijin.

Following in the footsteps of her prodigious mother, Daijin has already produced multiple stakes winner Handpainted (A.P. Indy). Passing Mood was the only stakes winner out of Cool Mood, a stakes-winning daughter of Northern Dancer, but Cool Mood's unraced daughter by Icecapade, Shy Spirit, was as prolific as Passing Mood.

Cool Mood was Canada's 1990 Broodmare of the Year, the season her son Izvestia was Canada's Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old, and champion turf horse. Shy Spirit is also the dam of stakes winners Key Spirit, Introspective, and Unduplicated, as well as stakes-placed Playful Spirit.

Stakes-placed at 2, Touch Gold blossomed into one of the best 3-year-olds of his generation. Winner of the Lexington Stakes by 8 1/2 lengths over Smoke Glacken, he skipped the Kentucky Derby, but made a lasting impression in the Preakness Stakes when he nearly went down in a stumble but still finished a fast-closing fourth to Silver Charm, Free House, and Captain Bodgit.

Thwarting Silver Charm's Triple Crown bid, Touch Gold won the Belmont Stakes, and then added a victory in the Haskell Invitational Stakes over Anet, Free House, and Tale of the Cat. Plagued by hoof problems throughout his career, Touch Gold returned at 4, but merely ran second behind Arch in the Fayette Stakes, and was retired.

Touch Gold is as versatile as his sire, Deputy Minister, getting winners on turf as well as dirt. In fact, his offspring may be even better on grass than on dirt. Only a small percentage of his runners have tried turf and nearly all of his winners on that surface have returned double-digit prices, including Flirt With Fortune, who rose up and won his first start on grass after mediocre efforts on dirt.

On the West Coast, Baffert's much-ballyhooed colt Odds On has received the most hype, along with Baffert's other colt, Cooperation. But ultimately, Coldntight may turn out to be Baffert's best hope for next year's classics.

Coldntight blossomed when stretching out to win his maiden race at a mile, and he is another Touch Gold offspring who is a definite threat to win this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.