11/06/2003 12:00AM

No wonder bids on Windsharp went so high


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Joe Estes, a revered bloodstock commentator and researcher, observed that the two most important and reliable tests for selecting the best broodmares and stallions were, first of all, their performances on the racecourse and, second, the evidence provided by their offspring on the racetrack.

Using those criteria, Estes would have given exceptional marks to Windsharp, the relatively young mare who sold for $6.1 million at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale on Tuesday. Mill Ridge Sales consigned the mare on behalf of The Thoroughbred Corporation.

Windsharp, a 12-year-old daughter of Lear Fan and the Sharpen Up mare Yes She's Sharp, did not escape the notice of the major international bidders, either. With the bidding starting at $1 million, the competition to purchase Windsharp was steady and intense. The price escalated by $100,000 increments past $2 million, then $3 million, before finally ending at $6.1 million.

Purchased for Darley Stud Management by John Ferguson, who was in communication with Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum by cell phone as the bidding progressed, Windsharp was a prize that Darley was determined to add to its broodmare band.

"She was the complete package and a mare that we were naturally very keen to acquire," Ferguson said. "You are rarely able to buy a champion racemare, and one with this sort of produce record is unheard of."

Indeed, Windsharp did fulfill both criteria set by Estes in spades. Although unraced at 2, Windsharp was a winner from 3 through 6, and her most prestigious victories came in the Grade 1 Beverly Hills Handicap and the San Luis Rey Stakes.

In the San Luis Rey, Windsharp defeated colts, as she also did when she won the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap. A very sizable dark brown mare, standing 16-3 hands, Windsharp gave no quarter in proving her mettle on the racecourse. A champion in Canada and runner-up for the Eclipse Award as leading turf mare, Windsharp won 11 races in Europe and North America, and earned $1,191,600.

Tall and lengthy, Windsharp is not heavy bodied or coarse. She has some quality, with a bold eye, and shows character. The big mare has a long stride while walking.

She has a deep shoulder that is well angled, and her hindquarters are those of a high-class turf performer over middle distances.

Windsharp certainly showed her best form at nine furlongs and beyond, and as a result of passing her test of the racecourse so well, the mare was mated with some of the best stallions available to her.

And far more than even her own excellent racing class, the quality of Windsharp's offspring made her the center of great interest among the premium offerings at Keeneland November this week. Just the previous weekend, the mare's first foal, the Gone West colt Johar, won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf in a dead heat with last year's victor, High Chaparral.

The Breeders' Cup Turf was Johar's second victory at the Grade 1 level, and the bay colt will be a major force to reckon with in next year's turf division if he continues to race. Closing fastest of all the runners in the Turf, Johar seems ideally suited to 12 furlongs on firm turf, which allows him to use his strong finishing kick to best effect.

Windsharp's second foal is the Storm Cat filly Dessert, who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 24. Like Johar and three other Breeders' Cup winners this year, Dessert is trained by Dick Mandella. She is a lightly raced and improving filly who was a fascinating prospect for the Breeders' Cup before a minor problem kept her in the barn.

With these two talented athletes as her first produce, Windsharp rattled the rafters at the Keeneland sales pavilion, but on her only previous visit to Keeneland, at the 1992 September sale, she had sold for only $8,500 as a yearling. Large and immature, Windsharp took some time to come around, and she was sent to race in Europe.

Back in the United States after a pair of stakes placings abroad, Windsharp raced for Richard and Martha Stephen. Once Windsharp proved herself in California, the late Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation acquired an interest in the mare. After Windsharp retired, The Thoroughbred Corp. bought out the remainder of the Stephens' ownership and bred all her foals to date.

Windsharp is in foal, carrying a full sibling to Johar, on a Feb. 27 cover.