03/08/2002 1:00AM

Pair of heavy hitters arrive in New Jersey

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New Jersey's stallion ranks got a major boost this season with the arrival of two heavy-hitting sires: Numerous, a regally bred Mr. Prospector son whose his first crop includes the 2001 Canadian champion turf runner Numerous Times ($676,320), and Caller I.D. (by Phone Trick), with 2001 progeny earnings approaching $2 million.

What the two horses have in common, in addition to strong credentials, is their new home, Joe and Karen Jennings's Walnford Stud in Allentown, N.J. For well over a decade, Walnford has proudly been New Jersey's leading stud farm. Its fortunes also have served as a fairly accurate barometer of the overall health of the Thoroughbred industry in the state. New Jersey definitely has undergone a resurgence, the Jenningses say, but the question is - will it continue?

"Last year was a very good year - things definitely have been getting better [within the New Jersey breeding industry]," Karen Jennings said. With record purses at Monmouth and Meadowlands, bolstered in part by a state grant, "we saw a big increase in the number of mares coming in," she added.

Naturally, the discontinuation of the grant in 2002 is a major concern for the Jenningses. "It's a roller-coaster ride. We are closely tied to what happens at the [New Jersey] tracks," said Joe Jennings.

Still, the couple remains optimistic. "Being raised in the horse business makes you used to the ups and downs," he said.

Walnford Stud - which had as its mainstay for many years New Jersey's all-time leading sire, Pappa Riccio, a son of Nashua who died in 2000 at age 20 - was built from scratch by the Jenningses. It is located on 100 acres of rich farmland in the central part of the state, a region that surely helped earn New Jersey its nickname as the Garden State. The octagonal, six-stall stallion barn is topped by a windowed cupola, all of it built to Joe Jennings's exacting specifications. The 24-stall broodmare barn/breeding shed has vaulted ceilings and brick aisle ways, glossy wood paneling inside, and natural cedar siding on the outside.

The couple bought the property in 1982, back when Joe was a trainer based at the New Jersey tracks. They originally planned to use it for layups off the race track, but soon discovered that farm life appealed to them. Although the hours are longer, there is no commute to worry about and, in some ways, they have more control of their own destiny.

Until 1992, when he gave up training to devote full-time to Walnford Stud, the race track had been Joe's only work environment. He learned the business from his father, the late William Jennings, a longtime trainer in New Jersey and Maryland.

Since Walnford hit full stride in the early 1990's, it typically has accounted for about one-third of New Jersey's state-sired foal crop, a remarkable figure that Numerous and Caller I.D. will almost certainly bolster.

Numerous is expected to cover as many as 90 mares this season. Caller I.D., who according to Joe Jennings is attracting strong interest from out-of-state breeders, will likely be bred to about 50 mares.

Numerous, who is out of a superb female family - his dam Number, by Nijinsky II, being a three-quarter sister to Nureyev - has racked up impressive numbers with dual hemisphere seasons in the U.S. and Argentina. He will continue to shuttle in 2002 and 2003.

Walnford stands three other stallions:

* Evening Kris, a Grade 1-winning son of Kris S.; progeny earnings exceed $3.5 million; sire of three stakes horses, including 2001 Prairie Meadows Derby winner Horrible Evening.

* Bugatti Reef (Ire), a regally bred son of Danzig and champion Gold Beauty's full sister Watch Out. First foals are yearlings in 2002.

* Sheryar (by Mt. Livermore), represented by two small crops to race, including multiple allowance winner Sheryar Special.