06/22/2001 12:00AM

Racing is Miller Time for ad man


To say that William M. Backer made a successful career in advertising is like describing Bob Baffert as a successful horse trainer.

Some of the most famous advertising lines of all time, for example - "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" . . . "Soup is good food" . . . "It's Miller time" - were the product of Bill Backer's creative genius.

During all his high-stress years on Madison Avenue, Backer found relaxation in breeding and racing horses. Now 73 and retired from the ad business, he's still going strong with nearly ten homebreds currently trained at Laurel Park by Barclay Tagg.

Backer's trademark runners have been fillies and mares with a fondness for the grass - a description that exactly fits Jazz, who led the way to a two-length score against Maryland-bred rivals in the June 9 All Brandy Stakes at Pimlico. Jazz is a 5-year-old daughter of the ultra-consistent race mare Applause, a winner of seven stakes and earnings of $362,437 for Backer in the early 1980's. Jazz, by Quiet American, was three times stakes-placed at 3 and 4, including a third in the Grade 3 Martha Washington Stakes, but the All Brandy was her first stakes win. Campaigned exclusively on turf over the past two seasons, she now has wins or placings in 14 of 25 career starts, and earnings of $214,331.

That Jazz is still running and winning is partly a tribute to Backer's patience. He does not believe in rushing his horses, or placing them where they don't belong. And all of them are brought up in splendid surroundings at Backer's 700-acre Smitten Farm, near Middleburg, Va.

Under the supervision of farm manager Ron Kling, who has been with him for more than 15 years, Backer maintains about a dozen broodmares, who are bred to stallions in Kentucky and Maryland. The mares routinely are sent to foal in the state where they are to be bred back, which means that Backer's horses are about two-thirds Kentucky-bred and the rest Maryland-bred. This year was a bad time for Backer's breeding operation, as five of the eight mares sent to Kentucky lost early pregnancies due to Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. Included were prospective offspring of Capote, Friendly Lover, Touch Gold, and Woodman - and a Dynaformer foal out of Jazz's stakes-winning half-sister Favored Lady ($113,285).

"It was just an awful loss," said Backer, who also had a heavy scare this spring when Applause nearly died while delivering a full-brother to Jazz.

Fortunately, both the mare and colt survived after receiving care at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, and the foal is doing well.

Applause had been booked this spring to Allen's Prospect, but the 2000 cover is now likely to be her last.

"You try not to get sentimental about them," Backer said of Applause, whom he purchased as a yearling in 1981 at a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky auction for $30,000. "But Applause is something special. She will live out her life here on the farm."