07/06/2007 12:00AM

Ready's Image has looks and talent

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Ready's Image, the Maryland-bred colt who brushed off his rivals with remarkable ease while winning Belmont Park's Tremont Stakes last Sunday, proves that looks can be on the money.

The Todd Pletcher-trained colt needed minimal urging from jockey John Velazquez before drawing off to a 7 3/4-length score as the odds-on favorite in the Tremont, a race that traditionally heralds the talents of precocious juveniles. He covered the 5 1/2 furlongs in a blazing 1:02.86, missing the track record by .60 of a second.

Ready's Image was bred by David and JoAnn Hayden at their Dark Hollow Farm in Upperco, Md. He has "never had an ugly day," said David Hayden.

Trainer Tim Ritchey, serving as judge of the 2006 Maryland Horse Breeders Association yearling show, singled him out for the blue ribbon in a class of 12 colts.

A few months later, Pletcher's father, Jake, scouting for prospects at the Keeneland September yearling sale, signed the ticket to buy Ready's Image for $410,000.

Jake Pletcher saw in the colt a keen resemblance to his sire, More Than Ready, a Grade 1-winning millionaire who won the 1999 running of the Tremont. Ready's Image was the most expensive of the 68 More Than Ready yearlings sold at auction last year.

The first Maryland-bred 2-year-old to win a stakes in 2007, Ready's Image is living up to his own name and that of his sire.

He launched his career at Keeneland in April, scoring in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, and came right back in the five-furlong Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 3, finishing third over a sloppy track.

Favored in each of his three starts, Ready's Image has earned $111,422.

Todd Pletcher's next major goal for him is the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 3 at Saratoga.

The Haydens, who operate one of Maryland's most successful commercial Thoroughbred breeding establishments, count Ready's Image as the most expensive horse they've sold.

Like the Haydens' all-time star Safely Kept, the 1989 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter whom they bred and sold privately as a 2-year-old, Ready's Image was bred from a mare that the Haydens spotted in the claiming ranks at a Maryland track.

Ready's Image's dam, Clever Phrase, by Clever Trick from a strong female family (out of Turn a Phrase, by Wavering Monarch) attracted the attention of many pedigree-watchers when trainer King Leatherbury dropped her in for an $8,000 tag on Aug. 26, 1998, at Laurel Park.

Recalled Hayden, "There must have been 20 claim slips for her that day."

Hayden didn't have the luck of the draw, but luck apparently was with him. Standing in the crowd near the racing office, he told someone, "I would have paid twice that for her."

Overhearing those words, another trainer passed the message along to trainer Jerry Roadcap, who had entered the successful claim on behalf of owner Donald Buckley. The next day Hayden wrote a check for $16,000 for the prospective broodmare.

The Haydens raced Clever Phrase three times in allowance company at Laurel that fall, and she finished no better than fourth before joining the Dark Hollow broodmare band.

Clever Phrase produced as her first foal the 2001 Horse Chestnut filly Yingyingying, whom the Haydens sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale for $35,000.

Yingyingying, who placed in two stakes and earned $68,806, is Clever Phrase's only other foal to race.

"The mare has had a lot of bad luck, too," said Hayden.

Her 2002 Polish Numbers colt was euthanized after a paddock accident while he was being prepped for a 2-year-olds in training auction in Florida.

Barren to the cover of Maria's Mon for 2003, Clever Phrase produced a Two Punch filly in 2004; that filly died as a weanling of a ruptured intestine.

Hayden said he bred Clever Phrase to More Than Ready in 2004 because he happened to own a share in the stallion at the time.

The Haydens have high hopes for Clever Phrase's current Two Punch yearling colt, who is being aimed for the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in training sale next March.

Clever Phrase failed to conceive when bred to Unforgettable Max for 2007, but is in foal to Malibu Moon.