02/15/2002 1:00AM

Not a typical trio of freshmen sires

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With the retirement of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos at the end of January, the winners of all four of the most important races in 2001 will be entering stud for 2002. In addition to Monarchos, these premier winners are Point Given, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and Tiznow, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year and in 2000.

This is an intriguing trio of top performers in terms of pedigree and racing aptitude, as well as sheer athletic ability. For pedigree, these horses were a few steps away from strong commercial appeal until they showed their racing ability. In racing, pretty is as pretty does. And Monarchos, Point Given, and Tiznow generated more quality performances and more enthusiasm for the sport than anyone else racing last season.

They are all attractive and well made horses, but none of them would have brought the really big money at the sales as yearlings because they are unrelated to Storm Cat and were sired by stallions who were off the radar screen - at least two or three years ago. That is not the case now, however.

Monarchos is by the very promising young sire Maria's Mon, a champion juvenile who stands at Pin Oak Stud. Point Given is by champion and classic winner Thunder Gulch and out of a stakes-winning mare by champion Turkoman. Tiznow is a son of the California-based stallion Cee's Tizzy and out of a mare by Seattle Song.

Cee's Tizzy is the furthest from the mainstream of the breeding business, but even he has gotten plenty of interest the past couple of years. He is an older stallion, age 15, with more proven offspring, whereas the other two stallions are both young and in the early stages of their stud careers. As a result, both Maria's Mon and Thunder Gulch have been the objects of immense interest from breeders after sons from their first and second crops, respectively, have shown what they can do on the racetrack.

Although Pin Oak restricted the book for Maria's Mon to around 100 mares last year, the demand for Thunder Gulch spiraled after the successes of Point Given (winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity and second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2000) and Spain (winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 2000). Thunder Gulch, a son of Gulch, covered more than 200 mares in Kentucky last year.

In the breeding business, nothing succeeds like success. Winning performances in the most important races fuel the demand for stallion seasons and for good yearlings and 2-year-olds. At the sales in particular, the difference between a stallion having a major winner or potential champion and a couple of useful stakes winners is immense.

With regard to the sales ring, the most celebrated racing performances are typically the best indicators of which stallions and which siblings will produce the most money, and those ratios of prestige and financial reward are always changing because in the highly competitive sales game, it isn't a question of what a horse did last year or five years ago, but what have you done today?

Now Monarchos, Point Given, and Tiznow are entering that new and intensely competitive arena. They have been special horses on the racetrack, and they could prove to be important sires.

Each will be given sufficient opportunity to make a mark, and the variability that is natural to genetics could surprise us all. These horses all were much better as the distances increased and as they matured into classic competitors. As such, they go against the modern trend of the sales ring, where so much emphasis is placed on an immediate return and on early speed at sprint distances. These are the qualities that fuel a large part of the sales activity for weanlings and yearlings, who are bought for resale, especially as 2-year-olds in training. These juveniles need to show high speed and early athletic ability to attract the return that the resale market needs to continue investing.

Are the offspring of these three classic colts likely to make promising juveniles in training? Of the three, Monarchos was the most precocious as a 2-year-old in training, although he didn't win from two starts that season. And Point Given was a tip-top performer at the end of his juvenile season. But at the least, a reasonable proportion of the offspring of these stallions will need more time than the juvenile market will want to give them.

That said, the long-term results, and greater financial success, of these stallions will depend not on their early 2-year-old racers but on their performers at a mile and thereabouts at 2 and on the new stallions' ability to reproduce themselves in classic-quality stock at 3 and 4. As their sires have found, that is where the gold is.