05/15/2003 11:00PM

N.Y. breeding: Mayakovsky begins new life


Mayakovsky, a track-record holder at Saratoga Race Course, has been retired and will stand the 2004 breeding season at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, N.Y.

Phil Birsh, a New York-based breeder and owner, bought Mayakovsky for an undisclosed price from the horse's owner, Michael Tabor. Birsh said he plans on syndicating Mayakovsky, who will stand for $3,000. The horse arrived at Mill Creek Farm about 10 days ago. Mill Creek Farm, owned by Tim Little and Anne Morgan and located near Saratoga Springs, is also home to stallions Lycius and Storm of Angels.

Mayakovsky, a 4-year-old son of Matty G and the Raise a Man mare Joy to Raise, retired with earnings of $275,000 and a record of 3-1-0 in nine starts. Patrick Biancone trained the Florida-bred throughout his career.

Mayakovsky, who brought a final bid of $210,000 at a Florida auction in April 2001 as a 2-year-old, made an excellent first impression at the races. In a stunning career debut, Mayakovsky won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Saratoga and established a track record with a time of 1:03.32, breaking the previous record set by Tea Olive in 1946.

In only his second start, Mayakovsky ran in the Grade 1 Hopeful and finished second to Came Home, who became one of last year's best 3-year-olds.

After the Hopeful, Mayakovsky didn't race again at 2 because he required surgery for a hairline leg fracture.

As a 3-year-old, Mayakovsky won only one race, but it was a notable victory because it came after a 197-day layoff. In his first race since the Hopeful, Mayakovsky destroyed his opponents in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. He finished fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, but Biancone decided against running the week of the race. Mayakovsky raced only twice after the Santa Anita Derby and lost both those starts.

This year, Mayakovsky won an allowance race in his grass debut at Santa Anita and then finished 11th in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 25. In what would be his final career start, Mayakovsky finished eighth in an allowance race at Keeneland on April 24.

Birsh always had been smitten with Mayakovsky and kept close tabs on the colt during his career. Birsh, 45, the president and publisher of the theatre magazine Playbill, was in touch earlier this year with Mayakovsky's connections about buying him for stud duty when he retired.

"They promised me they would call me and give me the first shot at buying him," Birsh said Thursday after visiting Mayakovsky at Mill Creek Farm. "He is just the most beautiful animal I have ever seen. I'm amazed at his versatility. To win the Gotham off that layoff was mind-blowing."

Birsh said he wanted to price Mayakovsky affordably for his first season at stud to entice breeders, even though he had been advised he could hang a higher stud fee on the horse and stand him outside of New York.

"I want to give New York breeders a significant bargain, rather than try to maximize each stallion cover," Birsh said. "I'm a New York breeder and I know the state needs a good stallion in this price range. I really believe in the New York program and its future."

Birsh owns six mares and he said that at least four of those mares would be bred to Mayakovsky during his first season at stud.

"I plan on supporting him heavily," Birsh said. "I hope [breeders] see what I've seen in him - a precocious 2-year-old who at one time was among the top Derby contenders in training. I believe the breeders are really getting a good value."