05/30/2008 12:00AM

More proof Toussaud stock age well


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Victory in the Metropolitan Handicap brings more than just prize money, it brings an immediate elevation in a colt's prospects as a potential stallion.

This is especially important for a colt such as this year's Met Mile winner Divine Park, a winner in 6 of 8 starts but also a horse who missed the Triple Crown last year, with its immense prestige and high-level of publicity.

At this point a year ago, Divine Park was the unbeaten winner of three races, including the Withers, but he was laid off from the Withers in April until the end of the year, when he ran ninth in the Malibu at Santa Anita.

Divine Park began 2008 with a seventh in the General George Handicap at Laurel Park but has been unbeaten since.

His accomplishments make Divine Park the most successful racer yet for the deceased Mr. Prospector stallion Chester House, who was bred and raced by Juddmonte Farms before going to stud at the operation's Lexington nursery.

Out of Broodmare of the Year Toussaud, Chester House was one of his dam's four Grade 1 winners and is a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and to Honest Lady. Honest Lady won the Santa Monica, ran second in the Metropolitan Handicap and Breeders' Cup Sprint, and is the dam of First Defence, who pushed Commentator through the first six furlongs of the Met Mile this year.

Garrett O'Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky, said that "Chester House had three crops, and this colt is out of the last.

"He would have been a beauty to have around, but he is just proving the soundness of the Toussaud stock. They improve with age, and some are even better as 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. The things that usually make horses lose form are aches and discomforts. The Toussauds are not heavy horses, although plenty big enough, have good bone without being heavy boned, and are extremely clean limbed."

Chester House won the Arlington Million at 5, and his son Divine Park is following the family tradition by maturing well.

Like Grade 1 winner Marylebone and Group 1 winner Palace Episode, Divine Park was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay and is the fifth foal out of the Ascot Knight mare High in the Park, a winner of $63,867 during her racing career. High in the Park is a half-sister to stakes winner Summer Park (by Summer Squall), and they are out of the Czaravich mare Czar's Princess, who is a daughter of the outstanding broodmare Honor an Offer, by Hoist the Flag.

Honor an Offer produced three stakes winners and three stakes-placed runners. Her best were Kentucky Oaks winner Sardula (by Storm Cat) and Grade 1 winner Imperial Gesture (by Langfuhr), who ran second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The quality of this family clearly indicates why Runnymede wanted High in the Park. Martin O'Dowd, general manager of Runnymede, said that "We bought High in the Park in 2002 when she was in foal to Mazel Trick, and I sold the Mazel Trick colt for $62,000, and the second colt we got out of her was by Menifee, and I got $90,000 for him."

Those were the third and fourth foals out of the mare, and after that quartet had not made a mark at the races, the commercial market seemed to go off the mare.

Divine Park brought only $20,000 at the Keeneland September sale as a yearling, selling to Charles Simon, agent for owner James Barry, and good fortune shined on the purchaser of the eventual Metropolitan Handicap winner.

O'Dowd said that Divine Park "was a most attractive colt. He had a lovely shoulder and great hip. Looking at his proportions from the side, he had a great frame, with a proper classic-looking head and a beautiful bay color."

The general scope and quality of Divine Park were what O'Dowd and Clay were hoping to produce when making the mating, and those factors seem to be paramount in the athleticism that Divine Park has shown on the racecourse.

O'Dowd said, "We're always trying to produce racehorses. That's the number one goal when we sit down and try to work out a mating. When planning our matings, we put a lot of work into the genetic compatibility between a mare and a stallion and then put emphasis on the conformational compatibility of the pair. The last consideration is the commercial appeal of the prospective foal, although we'll sometimes sacrifice the commercial angle on a young mare to get a really good mating that might enhance her value down the road."

High in the Park was not a really young mare, being now 14, and her early foals did little to distinguish themselves.

That helped prompt a decision to sell the mare, and in addition, "when we decided to sell her," O'Dowd said, "we had four Ascot Knight mares, and we seemed to be top-heavy on that sire and wanted to get a few different broodmare sires in here."

Runnymede sold High in the Park, along with her 2006 filly by Five Star Day, at the 2007 Keeneland January mixed sale, less than four months before Divine Park won the Withers last April. Having slipped to a cover from Five Star Day prior to the sale, High in the Park sold for a bargain basement price of $3,500 to EMFO Racing. The chestnut mare produced a filly by Van Nistelrooy this year.