10/15/2009 11:00PM

No surprise, Hough's got a couple to watch

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Stanley Hough has won more than 2,100 races in a training career that began in the late 1960s. But he derives just as much pleasure from developing and selling a young horse as he does from winning races with them.

"For myself, I was always more driven by developing and selling," Hough, 61, said in a recent interview.

Hough has done that on several occasions. The most notable example came in 2005 with Discreet Cat, who won his maiden impressively in his debut at Saratoga as a 2-year-old, before Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al -Maktoum's Godolphin Stable made an offer Hough and owner Joyce Robsham couldn't refuse. Though no price was disclosed, it was believed to have been a high seven-figure sum.

"Mrs. Robsham did it for me," Hough said. "We turned down several offers for him, but they came back with an offer I just felt we had to take. I pretty much had to talk her into it because she didn't need the money, but it was just the right thing to do."

Discreet Cat went on to win the Cigar Mile for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable, but Hough and Robsham have no regrets. They have breeding rights to Discreet Cat and still own the mare, Pretty Discreet, the 1995 Alabama winner.

This year, Hough and Robsham, 80, have a pair of 2-year-olds who could take them back to prominence. Both 2-year-olds hail from the same family line as Discreet Cat. Neither is for sale.

Discreetly Mine, a half-brother to Discreet Cat, will run in Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne at one mile at Belmont Park. Awesome Maria, whose mother, Discreetly Awesome, is an unraced half-sister to Discreet Cat, is running in the Grade 1 Frizette for fillies on the same card. Both look talented enough to make an impact not only Saturday but next year as 3-year-olds.

The Champagne will be the fifth start for Discreetly Mine, who is by Mineshaft. After winning a maiden race at Saratoga in his third start, Discreetly Mine finished second to D' Funnybone in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 19. Discreetly Mine stumbled in the race, stepped on himself and had a little traffic, though Hough said he felt that cost Discreetly Mine a couple of lengths, not the win.

"He could have been a closer second," Hough said.

With D' Funnybone skipping the Champagne to await the Breeders' Cup Juvenile next month, Discreetly Mine should be among the favorites in the Champagne.

Hough said Discreetly Mine could be the best colt produced by Pretty Discreet since Discreet Cat. A half-brother, Pretty Wild, a 2-year-old of 2002, won 7 of 18 starts and nearly $400,000. Another half-brother, Discreet Treasure, has won 4 of 12 races. A filly, Discreet Empire, won a maiden race at Monmouth, but will probably be bred next year.

"Of the horses out of the mare, he is probably as good a mover as Discreet Cat," Hough said of Discreetly Mine. "But Discreet Cat had more talent. But this is a nice horse; he reminds me more of Pretty Wild, a real nice horse. I don't know what his best distance is going to be."

Hough said he is inclined to make the Champagne the last race of the year for Discreetly Mine, though he won't decide until after the race.

Awesome Maria, a daughter of Maria's Mon, is coming off a 2 3/4-length victory in the Matron in her third start and could be the favorite in the Frizette. Hough said he is as high on her as any horse he's been around in a while.

"I don't want to overrace her. I think she's a really, really good filly," Hough said. "I don't know how far she'll go, but I do think she'll stretch out. I don't think a mile will be a problem."

That Hough has two talented horses for Robsham is meaningful. In the 1990s, Hough trained for Robsham and her husband, Paul. Hough had to give up the Robsham horses in the late 1990s, when he took a private job for Robert and Bea Roberts. He trained for the Robertses until 2000, when they had to disperse their horses for financial reasons.

Hough took a good part of 2001 off to tend to his wife, Cinda, who that year was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cinda Hough battled cancer until May 2008, when she died at age 53.

Hough had returned to training in late 2001 and reunited with the Robshams in 2002. Paul Robsham died in 2004, but Joyce Robsham decided to keep the stable going.

"It was a lot to do with her that they had the horses, anyway," Hough said. "It was a passion of hers. That's one of the things that gives her major enjoyment."

Hough's enjoyment has been developing 2-year-olds. His list of 2-year-old stakes winners includes Proud Appeal, All Chatter, Caller I.D., Distinct Habit, Feline Story, and You and I. Owner Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel purchased You and I as a 2-year-old, and he went on to win the Riva Ridge at 3 and the Metropolitan and Brooklyn handicaps at 4.

Hough said that regardless of how successful Discreetly Mine and Awesome Maria turn out to be, he doesn't expect Robsham to entertain offers for either one.

"She's just not a seller," Hough said. "I've had other horses which we should have sold."

Hough said he has about 18 horses for Robsham and about 8 or 10 for Cobra Farm. All told, he has about 18 2-year-olds.

"I have some useful ones," Hough said. "These two are the best."