Updated on 09/17/2011 11:38AM

Not for Love: You can bet on him


WASHINGTON - Horseplayers have always sought simple systems for winning money at the track, but simple systems usually don't work because the game is too complex. There is, however, one method that has succeeded for years: Bet on offspring of the stallion Not for Love. In particular, bet them when they make the first start of their careers. Bet them as 2-year-olds. Bet them when they run on wet tracks.

Not for Love's reputation has been steadily growing in breeding circles; he is the top-ranked stallion in Maryland this year and No. 22 on The Blood-Horse magazine's list of America's leading sires. His success is reflected in the entries for Saturday's Maryland Million at Laurel Park, where 15 of his sons and daughters are entered in the event's 11 races.

But conventional pedigree statistics don't begin to express how extraordinary Not for Love's performance has been. He has sired more than 200 runners, and betting every one of them in his or her first career start would have produced a net profit. Collectively, his progeny have made more than 500 starts on wet tracks, winning 20 percent and finishing in the money 52 percent of the time; wagers on all would have produced a profit, too. Bob Selvin, who developed the website Turfday, which generates such racing statistics, said: "He's fabulous! You could make a living betting on him in all categories."

It is an implausible record for a horse who was a disappointment and an underachiever throughout his racing career.

Not for Love was born to be great. He is a son of the late Mr. Prospector, one of the world's most important stallions, and his female lineage is equally distinguished. His dam, Dance Number, was the daughter of a champion, the mother of a champion, and a Grade 1 stakes winner herself. Trainer Shug McGaughey understandably held high hopes for the colt, but Not for Love never lived up to those expectations. He won nothing more important than allowance races in his first three seasons of competition. The Phipps family, which owned him, then sold him to Richard Golden, one of the partners in the Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md. Not for Love wound up his career ingloriously, running at Laurel Park.

Even though he had been a disappointment on the track, Not for Love had the potential to succeed in a second career, for well-bred horses like him can become successful stallions. Breeders who operate below the elite level of the business know this. Their best chance of acquiring a top stallion is to take a chance on a horse with a superior pedigree whose racing record wasn't good enough for the big Kentucky farms.

The most promising horses of this type are sons of Mr. Prospector, who established himself as a great sire of sires. Two Punch, one of Maryland's leading sires for the last decade, is a son of Mr. Prospector, who had an abortive racing career. So, too, was Allen's Prospect, the state's most successful stallion until his death earlier this year.

After Not for Love's racing days ended, he started his breeding career at Northview in 1996, without great acclaim. His stud fee was a modest $3,500. But he proved to have another asset besides his pedigree: He had physical endowments that he passed on to his offspring.

"He's a heavily muscled horse," said Dr. Thomas Bowman, one of the partners in the Northview operation. "He looks like a horse who can run through a wall."

His type of build is typically associated with speed, and most people who breed, buy, and race Thoroughbreds love speed. One of his earliest offspring looked so good that prominent owner Michael Tabor spent $2 million for the youngster at an auction of 2-year-olds. That transaction caught the attention of the racing world and made it aware of Not for Love.

When Not for Love's offspring started running, he attracted more attention. Invariably, they were precocious. And they were usually quick. Although the $2 million baby never won a race, there were few other duds among his progeny. Of his 57 foals the first year he was bred, 44 won races.

Not for Love's prolificacy was to be on display throughout Saturday's Maryland Million, with several of his offspring expected to be among the favorites.

(c) The Washington Post 2003