05/29/2009 12:00AM

Owner shifts focus from Chevys to Beamers

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After more than two decades in racing, Nick Alexander decided to shift his emphasis a few years ago. Out went the claimers, and the turnover associated with that aspect of the sport, and in came the broodmares and a small farm in the Santa Ynez Valley in central California.

Alexander, the 66-year-old owner of a BMW dealership in Los Angeles, decided to go boutique.

"We've had mostly claiming horses for 28 years," he said in the Hollywood Park paddock last weekend. "I was getting older and it wasn't working the other way."

The new philosophy could produce a graded stakes winner this month when Grazen starts in the Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Handicap on June 20. And the promising 3-year-old has a connection to Alexander's old way of doing business. Grazen's dam, Hazen, was a claimer that Alexander campaigned with trainer Mike Mitchell, with whom he has been associated since the early 1980s.

Hazen is part of Alexander's 16-strong broodmare band at his Horse Haven farm in Santa Ynez. He bought the farm earlier in this decade. "We've turned a walnut orchid into a horse farm," Alexander said.

To build his team, Alexander went to the Keeneland November sale and bought a few broodmares. He has since bred the mares back to California-based stallions such as Benchmark, Bertrando, Game Plan, Old Topper, Salt Lake, Tribal Rule, and Unusual Heat. Bloodstock advisor Kathy Berkey has helped Alexander plan the matings.

Alexander called the 16 broodmares "a comfortable number."

"We can have 12 to 14 foals a year," he said.

Hazen was purchased privately by Alexander at the end of her racing career, after she was claimed from Alexander. She won 8 of 30 starts and $200,188 and is the dam of two-time winner Ruby Haze, who has earned $33,120.

Hazen also is the dam of a 2-year-old colt by Unusual Heat, a yearling full sister to Grazen, and a Tribal Rule suckling, and she has been bred back to Heatseeker in Kentucky.

Grazen, by Benchmark, has won 2 of 3 starts and $75,400. After finishing 10th in his career debut at Santa Anita last September, Grazen rebounded to win the NTRA Stakes for California-bred maidens on Gold Rush Day on April 25. His victory in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on May 23 stamped him as a prospect for the Affirmed.

"That was a good race," Alexander said. "We raced the mare on the turf and she was a come-from-behinder. We've gotten a kick out of the fact that [Grazen] shows speed."

Grazen led throughout the May 23 race and repelled a bid in early stretch from the 7-year-old gelding Ukiah to win by three-quarters of a length. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 in his first route race.

"It was like a workout," Mitchell said. "He came out of it pretty good."

Mitchell supported Alexander's move to quality over quantity. "He's paying some good stud fees," he said. "He really deserves a good horse."

The prospect of a graded stakes win is new territory for Alexander.

"The Affirmed scares me," he said. "Historically, I haven't had a stakes horse, so it's a big leap for me. We've had mostly claiming horses for 28 years. We've had a couple of horses stakes-placed."

Alexander spends two days a week at the farm and plans to spend more time there. He has turned over the day-to-day operations of his car business to his daughter.

"It's allowed me to spend more time with the horses," he said.