06/29/2001 12:00AM

Paulson foresight still evident


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Last weekend was another showcase weekend for Theatrical and the breeding program of Allen Paulson, as Astra won the Grade 1 Beverly Hills Handicap and Hap won the Grade 3 New Hampshire Sweepstakes. Both were sired by Theatrical and bred by Paulson at his Brookside Farm in Kentucky.

Although Paulson died last year and his estate sold the farm, Gerald Ford bought a large portion of the property and renamed it Diamond A Farm. Theatrical still stands there for a fee of $80,000 live foal.

A 19-year-old son of Nureyev, Theatrical was the champion turf horse in the U.S. in 1987, winning the Breeders' Cup Turf and other top races, and he has passed on his ability to a significant portion of his offspring. He has sired 56 stakes winners, nearly 10 percent of his total foals. His statistics, however, are somewhat deceptive, since the Theatricals typically improve a great deal with maturity, and his stakes winners show up as 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.

Astra, for example, began racing at 3 and showed her best form only last year at 4, winning the Grade 1 Gamely. She has come back better than ever this year and will be pointed for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Astra races in the name of the Allen Paulson Living Trust, and Michael Paulson is the executor of his father's estate. He said, "I'm very proud of my father and what he built in the horse business, and we're very happy with Theatrical and the way his progeny are running this year."

The trust has about 90 horses currently, with 25 to 30 being horses in training.

Allen Paulson purchased controlling interest in Theatrical before his victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf and stood the horse at Brookside. And Paulson supported the horse all the way. He and Ted Carr, who managed Brookside and now manages Diamond A, bred horses according to a deceptively simply recipe. Carr said, "I bred them to our home studs. Mr. Paulson didn't believe in breeding to outside horses much. So we just bred what we had, and it turned out okay for us."

That sounds easier than it is. To succeed with that plan, Carr used a practiced horseman's eye to select compatible mates, and Paulson bought mares that had quality and performance. Carr said, "People could sell him a good stakes mare because he could see the residual value in them, and they did well for him."

Indeed they did. From these Brookside mares and their daughters have come Horse of the Year Cigar, and numerous Breeders' Cup winners, and champions.

And as Astra and others indicate, the Brookside legacy continues.

And Astra has a chance to add further honors to her breeder's record. If she is not the best turf mare in the country, she is very close, and her fellow Brookside-bred, Hap, is among the better turf horses in the East.

Although by the same sire and racehorses of high merit, Astra and Hap are very different individuals. Most obviously, Astra is a large bay mare, and Hap is a smaller horse who is a dazzling chestnut. He's so flashy that he could have been a show horse if he hadn't been a fast horse.

Hap is out of the champion English sprinter, Committed. A bay mare herself with considerable length through the body and a very good shoulder and hindquarter, Committed was sold by the Paulson estate last November for $300,000. The buyer was Diamond A Farm, and Committed went right back home.

A very attractive mare with great quality, Committed was one of the best buys at the November sale. She produced a Theatrical filly earlier this year who is a full sister to Hap and to Grade 1 winner Pharma. Carr said, "Committed has a nice filly at side. She's going to be big, and she could be real good."

Unfortunately, there will be no further siblings to Astra. Her dam, the Seattle Slew mare Savannah Slew, was found dead in the field last year, and her last foal is a 2-year-old colt by Geri. Purchased by Paulson for $470,000 at the Keeneland July sale as a yearling, Savannah Slew proved a good stakes winner and more than earned her keep at stud.

A very lengthy mare with something of a sway back, Savannah Slew was rather plain, but she produced racehorses. Her third foal, the unraced Delma, is a full sister to Astra and has produced a stakes winner as her first foal. The mare's fourth foal was Admiralty, a son of Strawberry Road who won the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes, and Astra is her sixth foal.

As a young filly, Astra had a large frame with less substance than a racehorse needs. But, given time and patient handling, she has filled in, strengthened, and become the racehorse she promised to be.