02/22/2002 12:00AM

A one-horse show now


ARCADIA, Calif. - With four children, 15 grandchildren and "twins on the way," Michael and Nancy Brown do not spend as much time involved with racing as they did in previous years.

But the one horse they have in training - Vixen Storm - more than makes up for a large stable.

A 4-year-old gelding, Vixen Storm finished third in the $250,000 California Cup Classic last November and won a $54,000 allowance race for statebreds on Thursday at Santa Anita.

"This is it," Nancy Brown said. "We're very busy here and there. We are just having a nice time with Vixen Storm."

Despite foot problems that have plagued his career, Vixen Storm has a promising future among older California-bred males.

"This is a serious one to me because we bred it," Nancy Brown said.

A winner of two of 10 starts, Vixen Storm did not debut until last summer at Del Mar. He won his maiden on Oct. 21 in his fifth start and returned two weeks later to finish 2 1/2 lengths behind Irisheyesareflying in the California Cup Classic at 72-1.

A suggestion from officials at Harris Farm led to the mating of Vixen Storm, who is by Cutlass Reality and out of Desert Vixen, a stakes winner from Ireland whom the Browns owned.

"She was a wonderful big Irish horse," Nancy Brown said. "We bred four or five horses to her. Dave McGlothlin at Harris Farms was cheering us on, but we hadn't had much luck."

McGlothlin, the manager at Harris Farms, recommended the switch from Moscow Ballet to Cutlass Reality, Nancy Brown said.

"It seemed like nothing had worked out," Nancy Brown said. "We had better luck with Cutlass Reality. I told my husband, 'This is the last time.' "

Vixen Storm is the result of the only time the Browns bred Desert Vixen to Cutlass Reality. The following year the mare was donated to the breeding program at the University of California at Davis, Nancy Brown said.

In recent years, Nancy Brown said the couple have spent more time between their homes in Bermuda Dunes in the California desert and Laguna Beach in Orange County. And, of course, there are the grandchildren.

"We're back and forth a lot," she said. "We're not breeding anymore."

On Thursday, Vixen Storm was 6-1 against seven others, none of whom had won their last starts. Ridden by Chris McCarron, Vixen Storm had a perfect trip. Vixen Storm was fourth until the final turn when McCarron swung his mount to the outside to reach contention. With a wide rally, he took the lead inside the eighth pole and won by 2 1/2 lengths, finishing a mile in 1:35.39. McCarron pulled him up quickly, drawing praise from the owners.

"He was losing his shoe," Nancy Brown said. "I think the jockey had a lot to do with the win."

Trainer Rafael Becerra said Vixen Storm emerged from Thursday's race a "little stiff."

Vixen Storm ended a four-race losing streak on Thursday. Following the third in the Cal Cup, he was fourth on turf at Hollywood Park, second on turf at Santa Anita, and a well-beaten fourth on dirt at Santa Anita on Jan. 17.

Becerra put the blinkers on for Thursday's race, the first time since the fourth-place finish that Vixen Storm had worn the equipment.

"When I ran him at Hollywood Park, he didn't like the soft turf," Becerra said. "He just got beat a head the next time and last time he had trouble with his feet."

Becerra did not mention a next start. He and the Browns would like to see Vixen Storm grow out of his foot problems and reach his potential.

"He's always had little problems," Becerra said. "I would like to see him 100 percent. We all have big hopes and he's been good to us. The more distance, the better.