05/14/2008 11:00PM

Pair of live longshots based on bloodlines

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Despite Big Brown's dominance in the Kentucky Derby and apparent superiority over his competitors for the two remaining classics, the big son of Boundary has to win each race, and the Preakness has been an Achilles' heel for several high-class contenders for the Triple Crown.

Among the relative longshots who will challenge the Kentucky Derby winner are Macho Again and Kentucky Bear, sons, respectively, of Eclipse Award winner Macho Uno and the established stallion Mr. Greeley.

A cursory examination of these two stallions would label them "speed sires" because they did have speed and have passed on that most vital quality in a racehorse. But these stallions are passing on qualities of size, scope, and aptitude that will allow some of their offspring to succeed over longer distances than expected from the stallions' own racing records.

For instance, Macho Uno was named champion at 2 in 2000 after his victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and as a half-brother to BC Classic winner (and major sire) Awesome Again, Macho Uno seemed a lock to improve at 3 and be a classic contender.

Misfortune limited his second campaign to four starts, including a victory in the Pennsylvania Derby, and after a 4-year-old racing season that netted only a graded victory in the Massachusetts Handicap, Macho Uno went to stud in Florida at Adena Springs South.

If somewhat underappreciated in his initial seasons at stud, Macho Uno has made believers of breeders with last year's successes from his first crop of racers, who are now 3.

From them, Macho Uno has a pair of colts with classic potential in Harlem Rocker and Macho Again. Both have had recent victories (Harlem Rocker in the Withers and Macho Again in the Derby Trial), but Harlem Rocker will pass the Preakness in favor of the Queen's Plate in Canada.

For the 2008 breeding season, Macho Uno has been moved to stand at Adena Springs in Kentucky, where he has a book of 115 mares at a fee of $20,000 live foal.

Adena's Jack Brothers said that "we are seeing plenty of size and strength in the Macho Uno stock. They are very athletic, which makes a lot of sense for a stallion who is a champion, who is by a Horse of the Year and is a half-brother to the sire of another."

The gray Macho Uno is the best-proven son of Holy Bull at stud, and Holy Bull, who proved that he possessed stamina almost equal to his exceptional speed, has become an important sire with sons like Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo and Grade 1 winner Flashy Bull.

Holy Bull also is proving to be an important outcross for the most common bloodlines of Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector.

Preakness challenger Kentucky Bear comes from the latter line.

As a son of the proven sire Mr. Greeley, Kentucky Bear has a pedigree with more established lines of performance and expectations for distance capacity.

The colt's sire has had classic starters before, notably Illinois Derby winner Greeley's Galaxy, as well as last year's Louisiana Derby runner-up Ketchikan, who did not make the Kentucky classic because of a physical issue.

A Kentucky-bred who is lightly raced with only three starts, Kentucky Bear is inbred 3x3 to Mr. Prospector through his sons Afleet (sire of Kentucky Bear's dam Tate) and Gone West (sire of Mr. Greeley).

Although many pedigree pundits would overemphasize the sprinting potential of these bloodlines, Kentucky Bear has shown improvement with maturity and added distance. Furthermore, in his racing style, Kentucky Bear is a closer who has tactical speed.

In his most recent race, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Kentucky Bear raced in midpack but only three lengths off the pace through the first half of the race, then moved forward to finish third in his Kentucky Derby prep.

Improving form and solid maturity at 3 are some of the traits that Mr. Greeley passes to many of his best offspring, including such stars as last year's European classic winner Finsceal Beo, this year's classic-placed Saoirse Abu, Mother Goose winner Nonsuch Bay, and Cigar Mile winner El Corredor.

Mr. Greeley stands at Gainesway Farm for a fee of $125,000 live foal, which is testament to his success and overall demand as a sire. Gainesway's director of sales, Michael Hernon, noted that Kentucky Bear is a "big, good-looking, and rangy colt who has been training really well since the Blue Grass. Kentucky Bear has given every indication that he is progressing the right way, and as a young, lightly raced colt, he should have improvement left in him."

Excluded from the Derby because he did not have enough earnings from graded stakes, Kentucky Bear was the first colt to ship to Pimlico and will have sufficient familiarity with the course.

His dam, Tate, was a stakes winner during her racing career. Kentucky Bear is her most successful offspring to date and sold for $42,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale.

With their progress on the racetrack, Kentucky Bear and Macho Again are worth much more now, and both have risen to the challenges placed before them well enough to indicate they are worthy rivals in the Preakness.