05/03/2007 12:00AM

Mr. P casts long shadow over classics


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The common perception that Mr. Prospector and his descendants are fast and precocious is frequently correct, but the stallion's importance in the classics should not be underestimated.

Just this year, the Mr. Prospector line is represented by five of the top 10 Kentucky Derby prospects according to earnings and by six of the top 10 in Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch.

In particular, four of the top five listed on Derby Watch - Curlin, Street Sense, Circular Quay, and Any Given Saturday - are by a son or grandson of Mr. Prospector.

Although these horses have considerable speed, as shown by a bullet five-furlong workout by Street Sense at Churchill Downs, they are the proof that the great Mr. Prospector's legacy as a stallion will be played out on the classic stage.

Although great things were expected of Mr. Prospector from an early age, becoming such a force in the bloodlines of classic athletes was not high on the list.

Mr. Prospector was a very nicely made and well-pedigreed yearling, a bay son of Raise a Native and the Nashua mare Gold Digger. He topped the Keeneland July select yearling sale in 1971, then proceeded to have a good racing career.

Even so, the Triple Crown didn't figure into Mr. Prospector's resume.

An exceptionally talented racehorse, Mr. Prospector never made the classics during his 3-year-old season in 1973, when Secretariat swept the Triple Crown. Mr. Prospector, on the other hand, was generally considered a sprinter.

But as a stallion, Mr. Prospector rose to the top of the class and became immediately recognizable as a sire of racing stock with outstanding speed and precocity.

The well-balanced bay horse moved from Florida to stand at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, and Mr. Prospector proved early on that he could sire classic winners, as Conquistador Cielo won the Belmont and Tank's Prospect won the Preakness.

Yet such was the dominance of Mr. Prospector as a sire of fast young horses, and of horses in general with plenty of speed, that the popular impression of Mr. Prospector became that of a limited speed influence.

For astute breeders, it became obvious years ago that the stallion had a powerful influence for classic performance, particularly through certain lines of descent.

In addition to siring Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in one of his final crops, Mr. Prospector also sired Forty Niner, who ran second in the 1988 Kentucky Derby and sired the sprinter Distorted Humor, who is on the same page with A.P. Indy among the most dependable classic influences today.

The increasing evidence of Mr. Prospector's influence on the Triple Crown began two years after Forty Niner's narrow loss. In 1990, Unbridled (by Mr. Prospector's son Fappiano) won the Kentucky Derby, later won the Breeders' Cup Classic, and was named champion 3-year-old male.

At the time, some observers shrugged this off as the effect of adding great stamina from Unbridled's broodmare sire, Le Fabuleux, and most breeders considered Raise a Native's other son Alydar as the better classic sire. In fact, Alydar had sired Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba in 1987, also got 1991 Derby winner Strike the Gold, and was an outstanding sire of horses with classic capacity.

But he didn't sire a son who was within a league of himself as a stallion.

Mr. Prospector, on the other hand, sired a legion of sons who were good stallions.

Among the best were Fappiano and Gulch, both winners of the Metropolitan Handicap; major winner Gone West; and champion Forty Niner. Each of these sired a classic winner, and perhaps even more important, each has sons making an impact on the classics.

Gulch sired Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch, whose best racer to date is Horse of the Year Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont. This year, Thunder Gulch is the sire of Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay.

Fappiano's Derby-winning son Unbridled sired a winner of each of the classics (Grindstone, Red Bullet, and Empire Maker) and has several sons showing promise of continuing the success of this branch of Mr. Prospector. In addition, Fappiano's son Quiet American sired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet.

And Forty Niner, through his son Distorted Humor, has a pair of runners this year. Both Any Given Saturday and Cowtown Cat are by the chunky chestnut stallion from WinStar Farm, and Distorted Humor already has been represented by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

Mr. Prospector's son Smart Strike is the sire of likely Derby favorite Curlin. Leading freshman sire Street Cry (by Mr. Prospector's son Machiavellian) is the sire of Street Sense. And Dominican is by the Gone West stallion Mr. Greeley.

With representation like this, what are the odds that Mr. Prospector will not strike gold again?