07/01/2002 11:00PM

Mr. Mellon belongs racing on turf

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LAS VEGAS - Mr. Mellon was always bred to be a star, but not on dirt. By Red Ransom, one of the premier turf stallions of our time, Mr. Mellon was never destined to compete at the highest levels on dirt against his contemporaries, but after an impressive victory in last Saturday's Arlington Classic, he appears on the threshold of becoming a major star on grass.

It would seem only natural for Mr. Mellon to compete in Arlington's next two grass stakes for 3-year-old colts - the American Derby and Secretariat Stakes - which would suit him even more than the Arlington Classic since they are at longer distances.

Thus, it was surprising that after his victory, trainer Elliot Walden was eager to return Mr. Mellon to dirt and possibly compete in the Jim Dandy Stakes as his prep for the Travers Stakes. For a short time this spring, Mr. Mellon was considered a Kentucky Derby contender, especially after a victory in the Rushaway Stakes. But after a disappointing run in the Arkansas Derby, he was realistically taken off the Triple Crown trail. After a two-month freshening, Mr. Mellon returned in the Jefferson Cup, a turf stakes at Churchill Downs, where he finished a game second to Orchard Park, a Hennessy colt who has won five straight turf races for Bill Mott.

Mr. Mellon was meeting some promising turf talent in the Arlington Classic, and on paper, the race certainly set up for his late kick, as three of his strongest opponents - Doc Holiday, Jeremiah Jack and Cappuchino - all preferred to be on the lead. Mr. Mellon got away well and settled behind the early leaders on the rail for most of the trip.

Sitting on a ton of horse turning into the stretch, Rene Douglas angled Mr. Mellon off the rail but had to yank him back inside, where, despite close quarters, he closed resolutely to catch Doc Holiday, who was making his 12th start on turf.

Mr. Mellon was much the best and with a clear run would have won by many lengths. He was just starting to roll at the finish of the 1 1/16-mile race. The 1 1/4-mile Secretariat in August could be at his mercy.

Sire successful right away

While it doesn't always work, Mr. Mellon exemplifies the axiom of breeding the best to the best. His sire, Red Ransom, is a son of Roberto who made jaws drop when he won his five-furlong maiden debut at Saratoga, establishing a new track record of 56.80. He followed that with an allowance victory at Belmont Park, but was injured and raced only once more, this time at age 3, finishing second. He was retired to stud, where he has been in high demand from the start.

Red Ransom's first crop included 10 stakes winners, including Sri Pekan (his first stakes winner), a multiple group winner in England and now a successful young stallion, as well as Bail Out Becky, Upper Noosh, Petrouchka, Kidnap the Wife, Incognito, Roujoleur, and Ruby Ransom. From the beginning, it was quite clear that his runners were dramatically better on grass, and that fact has only been cemented with each additional foal crop.

His best runner to date, Perfect Sting, was a champion grass mare who captured the Breeders' Cup Filly or Mare Turf. His other stakes runners include China Visit, Intikhab, Trail City, Wandering Star, Pico Teneriffe, and Ekraar.

Bred to high-quality broodmares, he has some young daughters who are becoming coveted producers. His stakes-winning daughter Ruby Ransom is the dam of Strut the Stage (Theatrical), and other daughters, including Marital Ransom (a half-sister to Yonaguska) and Word O' Ransom, a stakes-winning half-sister to Ascutney and Words of War, are valuable broodmare prospects.

Generations of female class

Mr. Mellon traces in tail-female (dam, dam's dam, dam's granddam, etc.) line to the legendary La Troienne. Class in the dam is best demonstrated by successive generations of a female family producing quality individuals, and La Troienne clearly is the most influential broodmare in history.

Mr. Mellon is out of Mackie, one of seven stakes winners produced by 1993's Broodmare of the Year, Glowing Tribute. Glowing Tribute, a multiple stakes winner on the turf by Graustark, is a "blue hen," producing stakes winners no matter to whom she was bred. Glowing Tribute's stakes winners include Hero's Honor and Wild Applause (both by Northern Dancer), Glowing Honor and Seattle Glow (Seattle Slew), Sea Hero (Polish Navy), Coronation Cup (Chief's Crown) and Mackie (Summer Squall).

Glowing Tribute's dam, Admiring, was a stakes-winning full sister to Priceless Gem and both were a half-sister to champion racemare Affectionately. Admiring and Priceless Gem established significant branches of the La Troienne dynasty through their daughters, while Affectionately produced 1970 Preakness Stakes winner Personality.

Priceless Gem, freakishly fast at 2, won the Frizette Stakes and defeated Buckpasser in the 1965 Futurity Stakes. Bred to Sea Bird, Priceless Gem produced one of Europe's all-time great fillies, Allez France. Bred to Secretariat, Priceless Gem produced Lady Winborne, who established yet another powerful branch of stakes winners.

Named in honor of Paul Mellon, one of the giants of the sport, Mr. Mellon adds another chapter to the unending dynasty of La Troienne.