01/15/2004 12:00AM

Playing both ends of the market with a mare

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Despite the cold, the rain, the wind, and mental images of sunny south Florida beaches, Keeneland staged a successful January sale this week. Bargains were found, fortunes were made, and the beat goes on.

At the top of the market, the sale of Cajun Beat's dam, the Cure the Blues mare Beckys Shirt, for $850,000 shows both the volatility and the possibility of the Thoroughbred marketplace, as well as its potentially immense rewards.

The 13-year-old mare Beckys Shirt was bred in Canada by Spring Farm. By a very good stallion in Cure the Blues, Beckys Shirt is out of the stakes-winning Ye mare Thundertee, who had good racing ability but represents a fairly strong departure from commercially fashionable lines.

Despite a cool reception at the sales, where she brought only $20,000, Beckys Shirt became a very useful race filly. Although only stakes-placed, Beckys Shirt showed her best form racing in New York, where she ran second in the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap and third in the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes and Bed o' Roses Handicap.

With a good physique and these quality performances to recommend her, Beckys Shirt brought $200,000 from John T.L. Jones at the Keeneland November sale in 1996. The mare was carrying her first foal to a cover from the internationally successful sire Kingmambo, and Jones purchased Beckys Shirt for himself and Smoot Fahlgren.

To this point in her career, Beckys Shirt had gone from strength to strength, and her new owners doubtless felt she would become a producer of significance. They bred her to important young stallions such as Hennessy, Honour and Glory, and Grand Slam with that confidence in mind.

Overall, they had to be terribly disappointed. The Kingmambo filly the mare was carrying at the time of purchase brought only $27,000 as a yearling and died unraced. The mare's succeeding foals were not that much more successful until the Grand Slam colt arrived and sold for $145,000 as a weanling in the Keeneland November sale of 2000.

That foal was a very important young animal for two reasons. First, he became Cajun Beat and won the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year. Second, Brazilian-born Renato Gameiro - a breeder, agent, and adviser - spotted the colt when he was looking at foals and yearlings.

Gameiro recalled: "I spotted Cajun Beat when looking at the sales. He was a nice colt and went on my list. The September sale is a good sale for me to buy my horses [for clients] and mark dams that produce them. I never thought that Cajun Beat would win the Breeders' Cup, but he was a nice horse."

Once Gameiro had seen Cajun Beat, who did not meet his reserve at the September sales, he was on the lookout for his dam.

Gameiro said: "I have always bought mares who have produced very good-looking foals. Since 90 percent of the really good horses are beautiful horses, I try to find mares who can produce them. Also, I like to buy mares who have had three or four foals so that I can look at the foals and decide from that."

So, when Beckys Shirt came on the market at the 2002 Keeneland November sale, Gameiro was there to buy the mare for Marco Bozzi and Giuseppe Riccioni. The mare, in foal to the young stallion Minardi, brought $14,000.

With this, the commercial estimation of Beckys Shirt had reached its lowest point. She had been culled, and almost nobody wanted her.

Yet, as Gameiro said, "I can find a diamond in very strange places."

Indeed, this would seem one of the strangest. It was a limited budget that prompted Bozzi and Riccioni to select Beckys Shirt. Gameiro said that "Bozzi came with a list of 90 mares. I had only 20 on my list, and out of that, eight did not pass. They were not good in conformation. We tried to buy the other dozen, and only one was in our price range, but only one is now the dam of a Breeders' Cup winner." That is Beckys Shirt.

Gameiro appreciates the role of good fortune in the story of Beckys Shirt and gives full credit to Satish Sanan, co-owner of Cajun Beat. "A big part of the success was Satish Sanan," Gameiro said. "He had faith in Cajun Beat and put him in the hands of the best people to bring out his talent. Without that, we wouldn't be here today."

Also, Gameiro said with a little smile: "There is a saying that God is Brazilian. And Bozzi lives near the Pope. We got lucky. So maybe we had a little extra help."

Despite Gameiro's self-effacing comments about luck and divine intervention, he has done this before. Several years ago, he bought the Kris mare Pointed Path for a modest sum. Then, after the mare's daughter Fairy Path won the Group 3 Prix de Calvados in France, Gameiro resold Pointed Path to Shadai Farm for $375,000. Taken to Japan and mated with Sunday Silence, the mare has become an excellent producer, with last year's Japan Derby winner, Neo Universe, being her best racer to date.