11/01/2007 11:00PM

Nahem bought a runner, but bred a champion

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Eddie Nahem was looking for a racehorse when he claimed Gentle Hands in the 1980s. He got a lot more in the deal. He wound up claiming the dam of one of the most influential stallions in California breeding.

Nahem, who died on Wednesday of liver failure at the age of 64, eventually bred Gentle Hands to Skywalker. The resulting foal was the California-bred Bertrando, the 1993 champion older male and the current leading stallion in California. As for Gentle Hands, she never started for Nahem.

"It goes to show you that sometimes a man can be kind of lucky," said Russell Drake, the farm manager at River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif., where Bertrando has stood throughout his career.

Nahem was part of the partnership that owned Bertrando as a racehorse. Bertrando won 9 of 24 starts and $3,185,610. At stud, Bertrando is also owned by River Edge owners Marty and Pam Wygod.

Nahem bred several mares a year to Bertrando. One of the resulting foals is Bilo, the winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park in July. Bilo was entered for Saturday's California Cup Sprint.

Drake considered Nahem to be a friend. "He was very involved with Bertrando," Drake said. "I think that was kind of his life, Bertrando as a stallion. He was always interested in how he was doing. He bred him and was very proud to be part of him."

This year, Bertrando is the leading stallion in California with more than $3.5 million in progeny earnings. He was the leading stallion in the state by progeny earnings in 2005.

An art dealer, Nahem was born in New York and moved to California in the 1980s.

"Racing was his game," said his attorney, Roger Licht. "He loved the racetrack. He was one of the few people that beat the game. He claimed the dam of Bertrando, bred her to Skywalker, and got Bertrando. [Bertrando] basically supported him for the rest of his life in grand style."

Nahem also owned such horses as Hugh Hefner, the winner of the 1999 California Sires Stakes and 2002 Crystal Water Handicap at Santa Anita, and Speedy Pick, the third-place finisher in the 2002 San Luis Rey Stakes. Bertrando is the sire of both.

Licht said that a memorial service in Nahem's honor will be held in the near future.

Statebreds on the block in Kentucky

The California-bred Grade 1 winners Leave Me Alone and River's Prayer are scheduled to be sold at major sales in Kentucky on Sunday and Monday.

Leave Me Alone, the winner of the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga in 2005, sells at Sunday's November select mixed sale at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington. A winner of $653,330, she sells in foal to top stallion A.P. Indy.

At the same sale, Princess V, a stakes winner at Turf Paradise and the third-place finisher in the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park in 2003, is being offered. She is in foal to Henny Hughes.

At Keeneland's November breeding stock sale, River's Prayer, the winner of the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder in July, sells on Monday. She was retired last month and sells as a broodmare prospect.

The California-bred Cee's Irish, 5, the winner of the 2005 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks, sells on Wednesday. She is in foal to First Samurai.

Notable Career, the winner of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes in 2000, sells on Friday. A California-bred, Notable Career sells in foal to Giant's Causeway.

Overall, there are 90 California-breds of all ages selling at the Keeneland sale, which continues until Nov. 19.