04/27/2007 12:00AM

A mixed bag of Derby sires


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Having a Kentucky Derby contender is the best kind of advertising for a stallion. It brings publicity that could translate into bigger - and potentially better - future books of mares. This year, the beneficiaries of that attention range from large, established operations such as WinStar, which stands the sires of three Derby hopefuls, to the smaller Ballena Vista farm in California, home of Reporting for Duty's sire, Deputy Commander. All stand to reap real rewards if one of their stallion's runners should win the Derby trophy.

Not surprisingly, the list of sires with Derby contenders shows a tilt toward larger farms and horses with books of 100 mares or more. Together, the 20 sires represented on the Derby Watch list covered 2,353 mares in 2003 - the year these Derby horses were conceived - for an average book size of 118 mares. Fifteen of the stallions bred 100 or more mares that year, and only five - Pleasant Tap (60), Danzig (48), Cat Thief (90), Albert the Great (83), and Exchange Rate (53) - covered less than 100.

There is also a decided geographic tilt toward Kentucky, with just four stallions standing outside the Bluegrass State this year. Deputy Commander stands at Ballena Vista in California, while Exchange Rate, sire of Xchanger, stands at Padua Stables in Florida. Two others stand overseas. They are Storm in May's sire, Tiger Ridge, now located at Wilgerbosdrift Stud in South Africa, and Imawildandcrazyguy's sire, Wild Event, currently in Brazil after starting his career in Florida.

As of April 27, four farms - WinStar, Darley, Lane's End, and Coolmore Stud - held the lead by number of Derby potential runners sired by their stallions, with three each. WinStar's Distorted Humor, sire of 2003 winner Funny Cide from his first crop, is back in the hunt this year with Any Given Saturday and Cowtown Cat, both of whom WinStar races in partnership. Distorted Humor was part of the package when WinStar owners Ken Troutt and Bill Casner purchased the farm, previously known as Prestonwood. A 14-year-old Forty Niner horse, Distorted Humor is now a key part of WinStar's roster, standing for $225,000 this year.

The first major stallion WinStar recruited after purchasing the Prestonwood property in 2000 is the sire of another Derby candidate. Tiznow, two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, stands at WinStar as a joint venture with Taylor Made Stallions and is the sire of Liquidity and recent Lexington Stakes winner Slew's Tizzy. Tiznow stands for $25,000.

At Lane's End, Smart Strike alone accounts for two of three Derby starters sired by Lane's End stallions. He is the sire of undefeated Arkansas Derby winner Curlin and Sedgefield, runner-up this year in three stakes. Smart Strike, a Grade 1 winner himself, is a 15-year-old son of Mr. Prospector and stands for $75,000.

Lane's End's other stallion with a possible Derby starter is Pleasant Tap. Now age 20, Pleasant Tap already had one headline-grabbing runner earlier this spring when Premium Tap, a Grade 1 winner last season, finished second to Invasor in the Dubai World Cup. Pleasant Tap's son Tiago, a half-brother to 2005 Derby winner Giacomo, has now put his sire in the Derby picture. Pleasant Tap, by classic winner Pleasant Colony, stands for $15,000. Unlike many of the horses on the Derby sires' list, he got his Derby runners from a fairly modest book of 60 mares in 2003.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley operation, which has included the Kentucky farm Darley-at-Jonabell since 2001, also has staked out a prominent position on the Derby contenders' list after carefully building a world-class stallion roster for its international group of farms. Both Darley stallions with possible Derby starters stand at Jonabell in Lexington. The young sire Street Cry, by Machiavellian, launched his stud career with a bang when his first-crop runner Street Sense won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and clinched the juvenile title. Street Sense is now Derby-bound after winning the Tampa Bay Derby and finishing a close second in the Blue Grass Stakes. Darley was impressed enough with him last year to buy his dam, Bedazzled. Street Cry stands for $50,000.

The other Darley stallion with runners on the road to Louisville is Cherokee Run, the champion sprinter of 1994. Darley got Cherokee Run, now 17, as part of its purchase of Jonabell. He looks well worth it at the moment, with both Chelokee and Zanjero among the Derby candidates. Cherokee Run, a son of Runaway Groom, stands this year for $40,000.

Darley's great rival Coolmore Stud also has three contenders by its sires. Like Darley, Coolmore has two by one of its younger stallions - 2001 juvenile champion Johannesburg. A son of Hennessy, Johannesburg is only 8 and has had an impressive year with his first-crop runners, now 3-year-olds. His Derby contenders are Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy and Southwest Stakes winner Teuflesberg. Another member of his first crop, Marcavelly, also stole some limelight with his win in the recent Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. Johannesburg stands at Coolmore's Kentucky division, Ashford Stud, this year for a $65,000 fee.

Coolmore's own Derby winner, 1995 victor Thunder Gulch, also has a contender this year. That's Circular Quay, a homebred campaigned by close Coolmore associate Michael and Doreen Tabor; Michael Tabor also raced Thunder Gulch. Thunder Gulch, by Gulch, stands in 2007 for $30,000.

Hill 'n' Dale and Overbrook Farm, both well-known operations in central Kentucky, also have a pair of stallions represented in the Derby Watch list.

Hill 'n' Dale has aggressively expanded its stallion roster in the last decade and now has two young sires with possible Derby starters, El Corredor and Stormy Atlantic. El Corredor, a 10-year-old son of Mr. Greeley standing for $30,000, jumped onto the list when Dominican won the Blue Grass Stakes. The 13-year-old Storm Cat horse Stormy Atlantic, also standing for $30,000, got a boost from 2006 Grade 1 winner Stormello, runner-up in the Fountain of Youth.

Overbrook, home of Storm Cat, has been less aggressive in the stallion market than Hill 'n' Dale but has still ended up with two Derby candidates by a pair of its young horses. The farm, founded by the late W. T. Young, has hopes of "making" a homebred stallion to replace Storm Cat. Jump Start and Cat Thief could fit the bill. Jump Start, by A.P. Indy and out of a Storm Cat mare, stands for $20,000 and is the sire of Hutcheson runner-up Bold Start. At 8, he is showing promise for the continuation of Overbrook's homegrown stallion program. So is Cat Thief, winner of the 1999 BC Classic, who has Grade 1-placed Sam P. as a Derby contender. An 11-year-old son of Storm Cat, he stands for $7,500 and is one of the lowest-cost sires to have gotten a runner on the Derby Watch list.

Another relatively inexpensive stallion is Albert the Great, who also stands for $7,500 at Three Chimneys in Kentucky. A 10-year-old son of 1994 Derby winner Go for Gin, Albert the Great has one of the favorites for this year's Run for the Roses: Nobiz like Shobiz, who has already has recouped owner and breeder Elizabeth Valando's stud-fee investment many times over with his wins in the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial that have helped him earn $804,900.

Ballena Vista's Deputy Commander also stands for $7,500. His son Reporting for Duty, second in the Illinois Derby, was conceived while the Deputy Minister horse was standing at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky. The stallion, now 13, relocated to California last year.

In addition to Three Chimneys and Ballena Vista, six other farms have a single sire with a potential Derby starter on the Derby Watch list. Juddmonte in Kentucky stands Aptitude ($20,000), sire of Great Hunter. Adena Springs Kentucky is home to Cobalt Blue's sire Golden Missile ($10,000). Padua Stables in Florida - whose owners, Satish and Anne Sanan, are partners in Derby hopefuls Curlin and Any Given Saturday - stands the sire Exchange Rate ($10,000), whose son Xchanger is a possible Derby starter. In South Africa, Mary Slack's Wilgerbosdrift Stud can celebrate if Tiger Ridge's representative, Storm in May, takes the roses. Tiger Ridge stood for $7,500 at Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds before his sale in 2006. And the Brazilian operation Haras Santa Maria de Araras has a stake in the race, too. It stands Wild Event, sire of Imawildandcrazyguy.

Not all the sires with candidates on the Derby Watch list are youngsters, though youth seems to be dominant. One old-guard stallion, now dead, is receiving perhaps his last classic hurrah. Danzig, the famously successful Claiborne sire who died in 2006, is represented by Lane's End and LeComte Stakes winner Hard Spun.