01/10/2003 12:00AM

New York breeding: Grey Comet scores a first for Star Track

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The Winston family, which has bred and raced Thoroughbreds as Star Track Farms since 1962, was rewarded with its first open company stakes winner last weekend when New York-bred Grey Comet won his third consecutive stakes in the Count Fleet at Aqueduct.

The grandfather of Star Track president Peter Winston purchased Grey Comet's dam, Jack Betta Be Rite, for $6,000 at a Fasig-Tipton auction in 1988 when she was a yearling.

Following the death of his grandfather, Peter Winston and his father, Marshall, have continued the Star Track operation, which comprises about 30 Thoroughbreds, including racing and breeding stock.

Grey Comet, a 3-year-old colt who remained undefeated in four starts after winning the mile and 70-yard Count Fleet, is the fifth foal and the best produced by Jack Betta Be Rite, a New York-bred daughter of Jacques Who.

Jack Betta Be Rite was Star Track's best runner before Grey Comet. The filly earned $350,399 and won 10 of 15 starts, including the restricted Schenectady, Iroquois, and New York Breeders Futurity. A race is named for Jack Betta Be Rite, the champion New York-bred filly of 1990, at Finger Lakes, where she was based throughout her career.

Marshall Winston was responsible for selecting the mating that produced Grey Comet, a son of 24-year-old New York sire Distinctive Pro. Despite his age, Distinctive Pro, a son of Mr. Prospector standing at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, commands a $10,000 stud fee, among the highest in the state.

"My father loves the Mr. Prospector line - who doesn't?" Peter Winston said. So far, he said, Grey Comet "is the first baby out of Jack Betta Be Rite who is showing signs of its mother."

Winston said that Grey Comet earned his name because Jack Betta Be Rite, who is also gray, was nicknamed the "Grey Comet" by television racing personality Harvey Pack after she won the Schenectady and the Iroquois in a seven-day span at Aqueduct.

Winston, 35, is the owner and president of Megatech, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of high-tech toys. He likened breeding a homebred to creating a toy that is well-received in major stores around the world.

"Up until last year we were buying at sales aggressively," he said. "Now the focus is on breeding. The matchmaking process has been a lot of fun. To be there from the beginning with a baby, till the time he crosses the wire in first, is a natural high."

This year, Jack Betta Be Rite will have a foal by Kentucky sire Runaway Groom and will be bred back to Distinctive Pro. Star Track also has a 2-year-old Williamstown colt and a Silver Ghost yearling colt out of Jack Betta Be Rite.

In addition to the Count Fleet, Grey Comet also won a maiden race, a division of the New York Stallion Series, and the Damon Runyon. He is scheduled to run next in the $75,000 Whirlaway at Aqueduct on Feb. 8.

Contessa tops earnings list

Grey Comet's trainer, Gary Contessa, was the leading trainer of New York-breds in 2002, with earnings of $1,501,345. His leading New York-bred money earner was Grey Comet, who bankrolled $150,375.

Contessa saddled 270 New York-bred runners for a record of 41-32-27.

Next on the list was Richard Dutrow Jr., who trained the brilliant 3-year-old filly Carson Hollow, a candidate for New York-bred Horse of the Year, to wins in several stakes, including the Grade 1 Prioress. Dutrow's purses with statebred runners totalled $1,388,676.

Among riders, John Velazquez topped the list, earning more than $2.7 million with New York-breds last year. Velazquez was the regular aboard Carson Hollow, who earned $335,370.

Big Apple Triple deadline nears

The deadline to nominate 3-year-old New York-breds to the Big Apple Triple is Jan. 18. The fee is $200.

The Big Apple Triple comprises the $100,000 Mike Lee at Belmont Park on June 28, the $125,000 New York Derby in late July at Finger Lakes, and the $150,000 Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 20. The owner of a horse who sweeps the Big Apple Triple receives a $250,000 bonus.

If a horse is not an original nominee to the series, a $5,000 supplemental fee per race is required, plus entry and starting fees.

Fully nominated horses will receive preference to all overnight 3-year-old New York-bred dirt races for colts and geldings at New York Racing Association tracks beginning Feb. 1 and concluding on Aug. 20.

Nominations can be made by calling (718) 641-4700 ext. 3247.