10/11/2002 12:00AM

Md. breeding: Benders deliver stakes-winning homebred quartet

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Sending out four homebreds to win stakes within a four-week span defies the odds. But what are the chances of performing that feat with older veterans - ages 8, 7, 5, and 4? That's how it happened for Howard and Sondra Bender, and their trainer Larry Murray, who won three stakes during the brief Pimlico fall meet, and one at Delaware Park.

"It's hard to believe," said Howard Bender, "I guess we made a statement for the old-timers."

Age has certainly not dimmed the fires that burn within La Reine's Terms, the 7-year-old horse who carried the Benders' colors to an especially gratifying victory as odds-on favorite in the $100,000 Maryland Million Turf at Pimlico on Sept. 21. A turf specialist who is undefeated in his last five starts, all stakes, La Reine's Terms (by Private Terms-La Reine Elaine, by King's Bishop) has not lost since suffering an unfortunate mishap in last year's Maryland Million Turf, in which he loomed as the favorite until a horse broke down on the first turn and forced him wide, destroying his chances. La Reine's Terms returned this year and made up for lost opportunity, running down Elberton (the 2001 Turf winner) in the final stages to win and boost his career earnings to $525,266 from 13 wins and 33 starts.

Overshadowed by his more famous stablemate La Reine's Terms, the Benders' 8-year-old Buenos Dias would be a standout in many stables. He won Pimlico's $50,000 Lure Stakes, at a mile on the turf, on Sept. 7 for his third victory, and second stakes win, in five starts this season. A gelded son of Mt. Livermore and the Naskra mare Tamanaco Day, Buenos Dias deadheated for first in the Independence Handicap at Mountaineer on July 2, and most recently finished second in the $150,000 Sea O' Erin Stakes at Arlington Park on Sept. 29.

On the final day of the Pimlico meet, Oct. 5, the 5-year-old mare Secret River cruised to a 2 1/2-length win in the $50,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race. A Bender homebred top and bottom, Secret River is by Secret Odds - whom the Benders campaigned to win multiple stakes and earn the title of champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old colt of 1992 - out of Wide River, by Broad Brush. The Lady Baltimore was the second stakes win of the year for Secret River, who also won the Grade 3 All Along Breeders' Cup at Colonial Downs on July 13.

While that trio was on a roll in the Benders' home state, a relative youngster from their barn, the 4-year-old Cruise Along, slipped up to Delaware Park and won the $55,000 Twixtslusive Stakes on Sept. 15 at Delaware Park, paying $20.80. A stakes winner in 2001, Cruise Along (by Runaway Groom-Nashly, by Island Whirl) had been winless in four earlier outings this season.

The early fall streak of stakes wins put the exclamation point on what was already a banner season for the Benders. They have won a total of nine stakes this season, with those four homebreds. And two horses bred by the Benders have won stakes for other owners - He's a Knockout, winner of the Artax Handicap at Gulfstream Park and Brandywine Stakes at Delaware, and Full Brush, who won the Taking Risks Stakes at Timonium.

Bender naturally gives much of the credit to Larry Murray, who not only trains the Benders' horses - a contingent that now numbers 23, based at Laurel Park - but also serves as farm manager at their Glade Valley Farms in Frederick, Md., home to their 30 broodmares. Also contributing to the operation are racing manager Deepak Ohri and assistant farm manager Mike Figgins.

* Final published figures for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Sale are slightly revised from those published in this column last week. Not for Love was the leading sire by gross ($523,200), followed by Allen's Prospect ($520,200) and Two Punch ($492,500).