10/04/2007 11:00PM

Pennsylvania breeder enjoys 'Fabulous' success

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - The Lane's End Farm stallion Smart Strike had three Grade 1 winners at Belmont on Sunday. They were Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Curlin, Turf Classic winner English Channel, and Vosburgh winner Fabulous Strike. Not only is the stallion's number of Grade 1 winners on a single day an amazing feat, but his winners were successful in races at six furlongs (Vosburgh), 10 furlongs (Jockey Club Gold Cup), and 12 furlongs (Turf Classic).

If anything further had been needed to mark Smart Strike as one of the premium sons of Mr. Prospector available at stud, surely this accomplishment solidly seals Smart Strike's credentials.

His Grade 1 trio comes from three successive crops. English Channel is a foal of 2002, Fabulous Strike was foaled in 2003, and Curlin in 2004. And while the first and last of the trio are well known to the racing public, the 4-year-old Fabulous Strike was less known, despite having won 8 of his 13 starts before the Vosburgh.

The dark brown son of Smart Strike will be one of the favorites for the Breeders' Cup Sprint after his powerful victory in the Vosburgh, and his rise from a maiden victory at Penn National to favoritism in the most prestigious sprint of the year is a breeder's dream come true.

Breeder Walter Downey said Fabulous Strike's successful rise is a "good ad for what happens when lightning strikes. My wife is very enthusiastic about racing, and a horse like this - who comes along once in a lifetime for a small breeder like me - is a wonderful opportunity."

Part of Fabulous Strike's relative obscurity is due to racing frequently at tracks that do not receive as much press attention these days as the venues in New York, California, Florida, and Kentucky.

The location of his victories does not detract from the quality of the performances, as indicated by Beyer Speed Figures of 115 or higher in four of his last five starts before the Vosburgh. Only Discreet Cat had comparable numbers, although they were earned in 2006. On form and figures, Fabulous Strike is a very serious racehorse.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Downey's Tea Party Stable, the gelding is out of the Lost Code mare Fabulous Find. Fabulous Strike was foaled and raised at the Xanthus Farm of Ron and Barbara Rickline, whom Downey described as "outstanding horse people who have looked after my horses for more than a decade."

Downey came to own the mare and breed the Grade 1 winner because of Barbara Rickline.

"The people who originally owned the dam were clients of mine for many years," she said. "They had a computer consulting business, and a lot of their clients were businesses in the World Trade Center," which collapsed after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

With their own clients out of business, Rickline's clients came onto hard times the following year, and by fall 2002, they needed to sell the mare quickly.

"They needed to divest themselves," Rickline said. "It was essentially a fire sale, and they asked if I had any clients who would buy her. So Mr. Downey purchased the mare from them and bred the foal."

Downey said: "The reason I bought Fabulous Find was her pedigree. I liked her sire, Lost Code, and she had run a very good race at Aqueduct," winning her debut in a six-furlong maiden special by 6 1/2 lengths with a Beyer of 82 in January 2002.

Fabulous Find, a big and heavily made mare standing about 16.2 hands, had bowed a tendon shortly thereafter. On Rickline's advice, the owners had bred her to Smart Strike in the spring 2002, then sold her to Downey a few months later.

Although the mare's pedigree page is not very strong, Downey noted, "there were a lot of winners, she was already in foal to Smart Strike, and the price was right."

For the sum of $5,000, Downey bought the dam of his Grade 1 winner, carrying the foal.

"I had to pay the stud fee," he said. "But I bought her in October or November with a live foal guarantee."

When Fabulous Strike was born, he was obviously a very nice prospect. Both Downey and Rickline noted that for size, independence, and personality, Fabulous Strike was an outstanding youngster.

But thousands of nice foals are born every year, and few go on to win Grade 1 races. Downey and Rickline liked the young prospect, gave him good care, and let him grow. Then the owner sent Fabulous Strike into early training in Florida.

"Unfortunately, we had to geld him because he was untrainable," Downey said. "He was striking out at people and walking around on his hind legs. Then I got a call a month after he returned to training, saying, 'This is a good one.' Once he became tractable, he was a super horse in training."

Downey didn't ask the world of his young prospect. He gave him to his trainer at Penn National, Todd Beattie, and allowed them to proceed without imagining it would take them this far.

Earlier this year, Downey worked out a plan with Beattie to "aim for the Breeders' Cup with Fabulous Strike." It has worked beautifully, with 5 victories in the last 6 starts, and their big payday comes Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.