04/21/2006 12:00AM

Point Determined out of plucky dam

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Maryland-bred Point Determined, considered among the leading prospects for this year's Kentucky Derby, sought to make a big impression almost from the day he was born, according to his co-breeder Milton Higgins.

"He was a plain brown colt," said Higgins, who with his longtime partner, Tom Bowman, bred the son of Point Given in a foal-sharing arrangement with Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert Clay.

"But he had a way of making you look at him when he was turned out in the field as a youngster. He liked to be the center of attention."

Runner-up to Brother Derek in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, his final prep for the Kentucky Derby, Point Determined has made his career in California for Beverly Lewis and her late husband, Bob, and trainer Bob Baffert.

A relatively late arrival on the 3-year-old scene, he made his debut on Dec. 26 and won his next time out, in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight on Jan. 13 at Santa Anita. He has finished no worse than second in four starts since, winning an optional claimer at Golden Gate on Feb. 17, then finishing a game second, beaten a half-length by A. P. Warrior, in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 18, leading up to the Santa Anita Derby. His last two starts earned him Beyer Speed Figures of 100 and 103, respectively.

In six career starts, Point Determined has earned $260,330. Of that total, $255,050 came this year, the most of any Maryland-bred in 2006. His $200,000 in graded-stakes earnings ensures him a berth in the Derby.

Bowman and Higgins, who have maintained a successful breeding and racing partnership for more than 25 years, sold Point Determined for $290,000 at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale, and he was resold to the Lewises for $750,000 at the March 2005 Barretts select 2-year-olds in training sale.

Point Determined is the second foal from Bowman and Higgins's graded-stakes-winning mare Merengue (by Broad Brush). He was born and raised at Dance Forth Farm in Chestertown, Md., the establishment owned and operated by Bowman and his wife, Chris. The Bowmans, incidentally, were honored at Friday evening's Maryland Horse Breeders Association Awards Dinner as the state's breeder of the year for 2005.

Merengue, one of slightly more than 20 broodmares owned by Bowman and Higgins, was purchased by them as a foal, in a package deal with her stakes-winning dam, Sentimental Tango (by Sentimental Slew).

Higgins credited the Maryland-based trainer Donald Barr with bringing Sentimental Tango to his attention.

"He was the one who found Sentimental Tango for us, and arranged the deal," Higgins said. "Merengue had problems, and Donald worked with her. When she was a yearling we weren't even sure she'd make it to the races."

Under Barr's tutelage, Merengue won or placed in seven stakes, including a victory in the Grade 3 Anne Arundel Stakes and a second in the Grade 3 Pimlico Distaff Handicap. She earned $334,070, with 8 wins and 3 placings in 20 career starts.

"No horse I've ever been associated with has had more courage," Higgins said of Merengue. "She refused to lose.

Merengue's first foal, a daughter of Silver Charm named Silver Lure, was sold by Bowman and Higgins for $60,000 at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. Her racing career was a relative disappointment, with 2 wins in 15 starts and earnings of $44,950. But based on her potential - and now escalating - value as a broodmare, Higgins and Bowman claimed her back for $20,000 at Philadelphia Park last May. Silver Lure made one start for them, finishing out of the money, and was bred this year to Sky Mesa.

Merengue's current 2-year-old, the colt Justaroundmidnight (by Elusive Quality), brought $150,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale. Merengue has a War Chant yearling colt, also bred on a foal-sharing arrangement with Three Chimneys, who is expected to sell at a yet to be determined auction this year.

Merengue did not produce a foal for 2006, but traveled to Kentucky early this season for a mating with 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, and is back home, preparing to deliver that foal next year at Dance Forth.