11/28/2003 1:00AM

Racing takes backseat to breeding


November has been a month to remember for Kurt Butenhoff, a New York farm owner and breeder.

About a week after announcing the arrival of the first two stallions to stand at his new farm, Empire Stud in Hudson, N.Y., Butenhoff won his first graded race, the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 15, with Spice Island.

Spice Island, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tabasco Cat who was claimed by Butenhoff for $40,000 out of a maiden race in August 2002, won the ungraded Dowager Stakes at Keeneland in her start prior to the Long Island. She is owned by Butenhoff and his wife, Kim.

Now that Butenhoff has a stakes winner in his small stable, it doesn't mean his attention will solely be focused on that part of the business. Butenhoff, a senior managing director at the New York City investment firm Bear Stearns and Co., is also directing plenty of energy into Empire Stud.

Butenhoff, 43, and Jamie LaMonica, a Kentucky-based bloodstock consultant, are partners in Empire Stud, which will stand its first stallions, American Chance and Wiseman's Ferry, for the 2004 breeding season.

American Chance, among this year's top 10 New York sires, will stand for $7,500, a drop from the $10,000 he stood for this year at Questroyal Stud. Wiseman's Ferry, a graded stakes winner who enters stud in 2004, will stand for $5,000.

American Chance, who ranked ninth in New York in progeny earnings last year with $1.9 million, is a 14-year-old son of Cure the Blues out of the Seattle Slew mare American Dance. Wiseman's Ferry, a 4-year-old who was retired earlier this year with earnings of $825,117, is by Hennessy and is the first stakes winner out of Emmaus, a Silver Deputy mare.

Butenhoff anticipates that Wiseman's Ferry, whom he bought in partnership with LaMonica and will stand as part of a syndicate, will be bred to perhaps as many as 100 mares next year. He figures that American Chance, who also is syndicated, will have a book in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 mares.

"I think it's a great start," Butenhoff said. "American Chance is a proven, solid sire. Wiseman's Ferry is one of the best sires in terms of pedigree, race record, and conformation standing in New York. We think it's a nice statement to have these sires."

Butenhoff began leasing the land that Empire Stud sits on in July. Questroyal Stud's stallion operation had been in residence there for seven years before its principals relocated to Pine Plains, N.Y., during the summer.

Butenhoff and LaMonica refurbished the property, including the installation of new fencing and land fertilization. There is an eight-stall stallion barn, but Butenhoff said he would prefer to limit the stallion operation to five. The mare population will number around 50, including outside clients and 10 of Butenhoff's mares. Sean Curtin, who previously worked at Coolmore's breeding operations in Ireland, Australia, and the United States, is the farm manager at Empire Stud.

"We are limiting the mares to 50 because we really want to focus on high standards, and mares do require attention," Butenhoff said "With the stallions, we have been very picky. We want to do it right and to the standard that we are proud of."

Empire Stud isn't Butenhoff's first foray into the breeding business. Three years ago, he and his wife purchased a 300-acre farm in Hillsdale, N.Y., about 15 minutes from Empire Stud, called Denlea Park. Originally intended to be a weekend home for the Butenhoffs and a place to board their two pleasure horses, Denlea Park became the center of a breeding operation when Butenhoff purchased several mares to breed.

Butenhoff typically sells his colts and keeps his fillies to race, before adding them to his broodmare band. He currently has two yearling New York-bred fillies by Regal Classic that will be sent to his trainer, John Pregman Jr., next year.