01/02/2008 1:00AM

Posse pressed by Harlan's Holiday as top freshman sire


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Turning into the homestretch of the freshman sires contest this year, the Silver Deputy stallion Posse - with seven stakes winners and nearly $1.5 million in earnings - seemed home free. But a couple of other freshman sires have continued to ramp up the pressure on the front-runner, and one of them, Harlan's Holiday, is making a race of it to the wire on Dec. 31.

The victory of Into Mischief in the lucrative CashCall Futurity at Hollywood pushed the total for the offspring of Harlan's Holiday to more than $1.6 million, trailing Posse by less than $75,000 in the waning days of the year.

Brereton Jones owns Airdrie Stud and stands Harlan's Holiday. He said that the young sire "has thrilled us with such a good showing from his first crop.

"I believe this is a truly deep and high-quality group of young sires."

Posse and Harlan's Holiday lead Van Nistelrooy, Proud Citizen, Macho Uno, and Whywhywhy in the top half-dozen.

"Maturity is going to be important factor from here on," Jones said, "and I would think you'd see a horse like Mineshaft coming on. Empire Maker has already proven he'll be a top horse, and Harlan's Holiday will stretch out well."

A graded stakes winner at 2 who stretched out to win at the top level at 3, Harlan's Holiday was one of the two best racehorses sired by Grade 1 winner Harlan, a son of Storm Cat bred and raced by Arthur Hancock III. After winning the Vosburgh, Harlan was retired to stud at Hancock's Stone Farm, and the horse has proven to be one of the better sons of his famous sire.

Before his death early in his fifth season at stud, Harlan had sired 98 foals, with a half-dozen stakes winners, including million-dollar winners Menifee (winner of the Haskell and Blue Grass and second in the Kentucky Derby) and Harlan's Holiday.

After a freshman sire season that shows nearly two dozen winners, Harlan's Holiday saved his best for last, and Into Mischief became the fifth stakes winner of his juvenile crop. This young stallion was a high-class juvenile himself, winning the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs and running second in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland before maturing into a multiple Grade 1 winner at 3.

Prior to Into Mischief, the most successful racers by Harlan's Holiday were Tasha's Miracle (winner of the Sorrento Stakes and fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Bear Holiday (Colin Stakes). Riley Tucker did not win a stakes but ran second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity and third in the Saratoga Special.

With the success of Into Mischief, Harlan's Holiday has made a serious run at longtime freshman sire leader Posse.

"The finish line may be coming a little quick," Jones said. "But I think you're going to see the Harlan's Holidays excelling around two turns" in 2008.

While chasing the freshman sire title, Posse has proven that he is a bona fide new source of speed and early maturity with class. His seven stakes winners are led by Saratoga Special winner Kodiak Kowboy, who was also third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Tom Ludt is general manager of Vinery, which owns a significant portion of Posse and stands the horse.

"We've been really pleased that the Posses have shown the athletic ability on the track that they indicated from their conformation," he said, "and some of the nicer ones have stretched out and continued maturing well."

Posse, who has a robust body and strong hip, combines some of the best traits of his ancestors Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer. One of the physical traits that marked Posse as a sire of consistent racers was the balance inherited from his sire Silver Deputy, and both Silver Deputy and Posse produced quick, competitive racers from the beginning of their stud careers.

Along with champion Silverbulletday and million-dollar winner Badge of Silver, Posse was one of the best racers by Silver Deputy.

Posse won five stakes during his racing career, including the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes at 5o1/2 furlongs at 2 and the Grade 2 Riva Ridge at Belmont over 7 furlongs at 3.

Sent to stud at Vinery as the property of the partnership of the farm and Bill Heiligbrodt, who raced the horse, Posse was quite popular, and when breeders and buyers saw the foals he was producing, he became even more popular.

The foals by Posse were typically muscular, nicely balanced, and very precocious-looking youngsters. The buyers tended to give them a second look, and they sold well as weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds in training.

With the success of his first crop at the races, Posse's stud fee has risen to $30,000 live foal for 2008.