04/09/2004 12:00AM

No shock Castledale went turf to dirt well


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Some were surprised that Castledale, who had run most of his races on turf, won the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday. But a closer look at his pedigree shows that he might have been expected to handle racing on dirt just fine.

By Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celebre, Castledale, winner of last week's Santa Anita Derby, began his racing career last year in England, and Castledale's best race overseas last year was the Blenheim Stakes, a listed event in Ireland. Castledale finished first in the race, but he lost it on disqualification to Colossus.

Colossus, a son of Danehill, progressed sufficiently that he was ranked at 114 pounds by Timeform. That is quite a respectable ranking, one that certainly offers promise of better things to come. Although Castledale's form was ranked only in the high 90's at the time of his race in the Blenheim, he appears to have made similar improvement.

Following the Blenheim, Castledale was sold to race in the U.S., and he won the Generous Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park near the end of last season. Another "turf horse," Peace Rules, won the race in 2002, and perhaps in an effort to emulate that fine colt, the owners and trainer of Castledale tried Castledale on the main track.

Making his first start since the Generous, Castledale debuted on dirt in the San Rafael at Santa Anita on March 6, and finished eighth. Although the effort paid no rewards in the San Rafael, there were some interesting elements that suggested the colt might improve.

The Generous and San Rafael were both at a mile, and the Generous, on turf, had the typical pace structure of a race on grass: a moderate to average pace with a strong finish. That structure was reversed in the San Rafael, in which the half-mile fraction was two seconds faster than the Generous, accounting for approximately 10 lengths difference.

More important in considering the merits of Castledale, the final time of the San Rafael was .60 slower than the Generous. After running so fast, they had finished slowly, but Castledale couldn't take advantage of that situation; he had already used up his energy chasing a pointlessly fast pace.

So the most cogent comments to jockey Jose Valdivia before the Santa Anita Derby came from Castledale's co-owner Frank Lyons. Lyons told Valdivia to ride the colt like a turf horse, that is, to wait and wait and wait some more. Then finish.

Likewise, trainer Jeff Mullins felt that the colt had moved too soon in the San Rafael. As it turned out, timing was everything in the Santa Anita Derby, and Castledale had the energy when it counted.

His effort will not go unnoticed in Europe, either. Castledale's sire, the Nureyev stallion Peintre Celebre, stands at Coolmore Stud in Ireland, and the handsome chestnut is establishing himself as an important source of classic-quality horses in a wide variety of racing environments.

Last year, Peintre Celebre's son Dai Jin won the German Derby, and another son named Super Celebre was second to Dalakhani in the French Derby. Both colts are from Peintre Celebre's first crop, as was Vallee Enchantee, winner last year of the Prix du Conseil de Paris and Hong Kong Vase.

Castledale is from the stallion's second crop, as is Pearl of Love, who won the Group 1 Gran Criterium at Milan in Italy last fall. The Santa Anita Derby was the fourth Group 1 or Grade 1 success for the offspring of Peintre Celebre, and each victory has come in a different country: Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, and the U.S.

Bred in Ireland by Gigginstown House Stud, Castledale came to the U.S. after his purchase by Greg Knee and Frank Lyons last year. Yet, Castledale has much deeper ties to the U.S. and to racing on dirt.

His sire was bred in Kentucky by Daniel Wildenstein. Peintre Celebre is by the internationally successful Northern Dancer stallion Nureyev, who spent nearly all his stud career at the Walmac Stud of John T.L. Jones. Peintre Celebre is out of the Alydar mare Peinture Bleu, one of three stakes winners out of the Habitat mare Petroleuse.

In addition to his Kentucky-bred and -based sire, Castledale's dam and second dam both were bred in Kentucky by John Gaines, who developed Gainesway Farm north of Lexington and stood such internationally prominent stallions as Riverman, Lyphard, Vaguely Noble, and Sharpen Up.

The dam of Castledale, Louju, is by the Airdrie Stud stallion Silver Hawk, who ran second in the Irish Derby and third in the Derby Stakes in England, and at stud, the son of Roberto has proven an influence for classic stamina, siring among other good horses, English Derby winner Benny the Dip. Louju was unraced and sold for $200,000 carrying her first foal, a filly by Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World. Castledale is her third foal.

Castledale's second dam, Secretarial Queen, by Secretariat, is a stakes winner and ran second in the Grade 1 Hollywood Oaks. She is one of five stakes winners out of the Nashua mare Nicoma, whose other foals include Hollywood Oaks winner Nicosia, Sapling winner Tisab, and the useful sire John Alden.