12/05/2002 1:00AM

Orientate returns home for stud duty


He was born at Gainesway Farm, then raised at Gainesway, and even though he was sold as a yearling, he has returned to Gainesway to begin his career as a stallion.

Orientate, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint and is the odds-on favorite to be voted the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter, has come full circle. He was retired following his Breeders' Cup victory and is preparing for his first year at stud, where his handlers believe he will be a hit.

"He's got the whole package," said Michael Hernon, the director of sales at Gainesway, in Lexington, Ky. "He stands 16-1 hands, and has plenty of range. He doesn't look like a sprinter. He's not blocky. He's a champion racehorse who could carry his speed. He wasn't one-dimensional. He could run on turf. He's a good-looking horse. And he's out of a Grade 1 winner at 2, all of which are significant when it comes to making him a successful stallion."

Orientate will stand for a fee of $25,000, live foal, Hernon said.

"We've been overwhelmed by the response," Hernon said. "He's perceived as good value. We feel he's solid at that number. He'll be bred to about 100 mares, and Gainesway will support him significantly, with 12 to 15 mares. We're pleased with the quality of mares he's attracting."

Gainesway acquired Orientate in partnership with John Messara's Arrowfield Stud of Australia. Orientate will be sent to Australia in the fall to be bred on Southern Hemisphere time. Hernon said he expects Orientate to be bred to approximately 75 to 80 mares in Australia.

Orientate, a 4-year-old colt, is by Mt. Livermore and is out of the Cox's Ridge mare Dream Team. He joins his sire (and Subordination, another son of Mt. Livermore) as a stallion at Gainesway. Officer, a multiple stakes winner at age 2 in 2001, is, like Orientate, joining Gainesway as a first-year stallion. The farm will stand 14 stallions in 2003.

Orientate's relationship with the farm began with his conception. After being purchased as a yearling by Bob and Beverly Lewis, his career was closely followed Gainesway owner Graham Beck and his son, Antony, and the farm was eager to get him back as a stallion.

"He's the first homebred of Mt. Livermore to come home," Hernon said. "We had been around him for some time. He's a favorite of Antony Beck's. Graham and Antony Beck were keen on the horse. Antony lobbied the Lewises to secure the horse for the farm. Mr. Lewis looked favorably on it, but a deal wasn't struck until after the Breeders' Cup."

Orientate won 10 times in 19 starts during his career, and he earned more than $1.5 million. He was trained throughout his career by D. Wayne Lukas, who also trained Mt. Livermore and Dream Team.

Orientate was offered for sale at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 1999. According to Hernon, the farm put a reserve price of $249,000 on Orientate. But because Orientate was in the second half of the sale, Hernon feared the price might not be met.

"When I brought him down to the ring, I thought, 'We might not get this done,' " Hernon said. "I saw Lukas and encouraged him to bid on the horse. He's a big, athletic colt, a good mover, and Wayne had trained Mt. Livermore and Dream Team. He looked me in the eye and said, 'Is he okay?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' "

Lukas, on behalf of the Lewises, got Orientate for $250,000, just clearing the reserve price.

Orientate was tried at a number of distances, and on turf and dirt, until Lukas focused on making Orientate a sprinter. After a pair of winless starts at age 2, Orientate steadily improved at 3. He won a pair of sprint races in the summer of 2001 at Saratoga, and then in the fall stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and captured the Indiana Derby for his first stakes victory.

Off that performance, Orientate was entered in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park, but he stopped badly after setting the early pace and beat just one horse, finishing nearly 30 lengths behind Tiznow.

Two months later, Orientate switched to the turf and won the overnight Sir Beaufort Stakes on Santa Anita's opening day. That encouraged Lukas to keep Orientate around two turns. He participated in the final two legs of the Strub Series, finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile San Fernando Stakes, and sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Strub Stakes.

Lukas had been trying to keep Orientate and Snow Ridge apart, believing, in the early part of 2002, that Snow Ridge was the superior sprinter. Still, Orientate gave a hint of what was to come when he splashed to victory in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland, earning his first graded stakes victory.

Orientate made his next two starts on turf, but after Snow Ridge was retired because of a career-ending injury, Orientate became the No. 1 sprinter in Lukas's barn, and he was moved back to the main track.

He never lost again.

Orientate closed his career with five consecutive victories, each time displaying sharp early speed and putting away his early pace rivals. He won the Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs in June, two weeks later shipped to Florida and won the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder, and four weeks after that won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga

Orientate got his first Grade 1 victory in the Forego Handicap at Saratoga on Sept. 1. He had won four straight races in a little more than two months. Then, in a daring move, Lukas decided to bring Orientate into the Breeders' Cup off a seven-week break. Orientate turned in another powerful performance, running down the longshot Thunderello for his fifth straight victory.

"He stretched his speed two turns in the Indiana Derby, and on turf at Santa Anita, but once he focused on sprinting, he improved enough to become the best sprinter in the country, winning the Breeders' Cup from the unfavorable 10 hole," Hernon said. "He retired sound. He was durable. And he didn't need a particular track or surface to be effective."