10/29/2001 12:00AM

Nureyev, premier sire, dead

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Legendary sire Nureyev, sire of more than 125 stakes-winners, died Monday following a battle against a recurring tumor in his hoof. He was 24.

Walmac owner John T. L. Jones, Jr., owner of Walmac, the western Kentucky farm where Nureyev stood, confirmed the stallion's death but provided no details other than that the stallion died after lunch on Monday.

"Everything that exists comes to its time," Jones said. "Nureyev was a pleasure and a friend. He was unique."

Nureyev had been in guarded condition in recent days after undergoing surgery, first to remove a tumor from his right front hoof and then to cut the deep flexor tendons in both front legs as a way of relieving the pressure on his feet and improve circulation.

Nureyev's attending veterinarian, Walmac resident vet Dr. J.D. Howard, said last week that the tumor was not cancerous but had been impinging on the sensitive laminae in the hoof.

Nureyev, out of the prominent producer Special (Forli), sold for $1.3 million at the 1978 Keeneland July yearling sale. He was named champion in France at 3 off of one victory, in the Prix Thomas Djebel, from just two starts that year. The other start, in the English 2000 Guineas, was almost a victory: Nureyev finished first but was disqualified and placed last for interference. That was his last start. He retired after his 3-year-old season with two wins, both stakes, from three career starts and total earnings of $42,018.

Nureyev's progeny included such champions as Miesque, Theatrical, Heart Lake, Zilzal, Spinning World, Sonic Lady, Soviet Star. His Grade or Group 1 winners this year alone include Skimming, Senure, and King Charlemagne. To date, his runners have earned more than $65.7 million.

Nureyev covered 39 mares in 2001, according to Jockey Club statistics.

Jones said Nureyev will be buried at Walmac.