04/18/2008 12:00AM

Monba does Mill Ridge Farm proud

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The victory of Monba in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland was the first in the historic track's signature race for breeders Mill Ridge Farm (owned by Alice and John Chandler) and JAMM Ltd. (Audrey Otto).

The victory for the gray son of Maria's Mon was especially sweet for Alice Chandler because, she said, "It's daddy's foundation family."

Her father, Hal Price Headley, was one of the founders of the Keeneland Association and its president from 1935 to 1951,

"Monba won at Keeneland," Chandler said. "I bred him with my good friend, he's by a Pin Oak stallion, and my dear friend [Pin Oak owner Josephine Abercrombie] sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers.

"The only sad side is that Maria's Mon is gone."

Maria's Mon died of complications from laminitis last September.

Monba is out of the Easy Goer mare Hamba, and she traces in the female line to Alcibiades, the leading filly of her generation at 2 and 3 who is the namesake of Keeneland's premier stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

As a broodmare, Alcibiades produced four stakes winners, including Menow, who was the champion

2-year-old colt of 1937.

Bred and raced by Headley, Alcibiades is the sixth dam of Monba, and Alice Chandler bred everything in this branch of the family leading up to Blue Grass winner.

She recalled that her father "gave each of his children four mares, and one he gave me was Attica." Attica later became the dam of 1968 English Derby winner Sir Ivor.

Another mare was Hipparete (by Pharamond II), a full sister to Menow, but, as Chandler said, she was "so crooked they weren't even sure they wanted to break her."

They did, however, and, as Chandler recalled, Headley's close associate Major Louie Beard "came by one day, saw her, and told me she would never run. I said, 'I don't believe that.' And I said, 'I bet you $10 it won't be that way.' She won four races, and he paid me the $10."

Hipparete was an even better as a broodmare, producing Rash Statement (Ambiorix), who won the Alcibiades in 1959 and the Spinster in 1960, and Pillow Talk (Mr. Trouble), who won the Black-Eyed Susan and was second in the Kentucky Oaks in 1957.

For this family, Pillow Talk was a disappointing broodmare, and her best daughter was Ave Valeque (Bold Ruler). Ave Valeque got the family back on track, producing stakes winner Ciao, a daughter of champion

2-year-old Silent Screen.

"Ciao was pure, unadulterated speed," Chandler said.

The talented filly also was an early point of contact between the breeders of Ciao's grandson, Monba. Audrey Otto was first getting involved in Thoroughbreds in the 1970s, and Otto said, "I can remember Ciao when Alice was training her. Being around someone so closely involved in all the parts of racing and breeding was such fun, and that was exciting to me."

The excitement didn't wear off, and Otto became increasingly involved in breeding and in racing herself.

"I had been a minor part of the industry before I moved to Lexington [from St. Louis]," Otto said. "I've been here 15 years, and if you're going to be in this business, Lexington is the place to be. And being connected with Mill Ridge has been a real blessing."

The association became friendship, and the friends became partners in breeding good horses.

"I was pleased when Alice wanted me to take a part of Hamba when she was a young horse because I knew who the horse was and what this family meant to her," Otto said. "I was grateful to be part of that. I never had any sort of dream that Hamba would produce a Blue Grass Stakes winner, but I did hope that she would have some nice foals."

Monba is the most successful racer out of Hamba, who was the last foal out of Ciao. In addition to Hamba, Ciao's daughter Silent Account won the Alcibiades in 1985, and Ciao produced three other stakes winners: Secret Hello (Arlington-Washington Futurity), Hadif (Phoenix Handicap), and By Your Leave (Anne Arundel).

With that many excellent siblings, Hamba was a special young mare, and when the partners brought her offspring to the sales, the yearlings sold well and generated more than $1omillion from her first six foals.

Of those, five have won. Monba is a Grade 1 winner, and Gijima (Red Ransom) is stakes-placed.

Barry Berkelhammer, agent for Starlight Stable, Donald Lucarelli, and Paul Saylor, bought Monba for $200,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton select yearling sale at Saratoga. Mill Ridge Sales consigned the colt.

Since producing Monba, Hamba has a 2-year-old colt by Aldebaran. The mare does not have a yearling, but does have a suckling colt by Harlan's Holiday, and was bred to Discreet Cat on April 18.