01/23/2009 12:00AM

Riches at home, glory abroad marked year for Keystoners


One needs to look no further than the Pennsylvania-bred stakes schedule for a sign of the impact slot-machine revenue has on racing in Pennsylvania.

In 2008, a record $3.3 million was allocated for restricted stakes, quadrupling the amount available just two years earlier. With more than 40 stakes offered at Philadelphia Park, Penn National, and Presque Isle Downs last year, statebred runners had opportunities galore. The result? A new high mark of statebred stakes winners in a single year, with 48 Pennsylvania-breds gaining stakes success.

Twenty-nine of last year's stakes winners scored in restricted company. But the two top earners among statebred runners found their fortunes outside their home state.

The globetrotting Lord Admiral topped all runners from the state, amassing $389,925 from 10 starts. Lord Admiral, a son of El Prado owned by legendary Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien and trained by his youngest son, Charles O'Brien, launched his 7-year-old campaign with an impressive 3 3/4-length score in the Group 3 Al Rashidiya Stakes in Dubai at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Five weeks later, at the same distance and over the same surface, he captured the Group 2 Jebel Hatta, defeating Jay Peg. In between those two starts was a third-place finish to Archipenko in the Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort at one mile.

In his final Dubai start of the season, Lord Admiral once again faced Jay Peg and Archipenko in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, and finished 10th, although beaten only four lengths by the victorious Jay Peg.

Three starts in Ireland resulted in two Group 3 runner-up performances before Lord Admiral once again tackled Group 1 company. A fifth-place finish in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes preceded Lord Admiral's trip to the United States and a start in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile, where he finished fourth after a rough trip, beaten a total of 1 1/2 lengths.

Lord Admiral, bred by London Thoroughbred Services and Derry Meeting Farm, was off the board in his final two starts last year, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and the Grade 1 Citation Handicap, but by year's end he had career earnings to $926,518 from 48 starts.

Fabulous Strike, a homebred for Walter Downey's Tea Party Stable, led statebred runners by North American earnings, banking $306,580 from five starts.

A high-class sprinter and a finalist for an Eclipse Award in 2007, Fabulous Strike didn't make his first start of 2008 until June, when he swept to victory in the Vincent A. Moscarelli Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park. His only graded stakes score of the year came in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap on Dec. 27, but his most impressive performance was the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes. In his first start in more than three months, he lost by a head to Black Seventeen while racing with a loose shoe over a sloppy track.

Fabulous Strike is also closing in on the million-dollar mark, having bankrolled $939,412 from 19 career starts.

Three runners tied for the most stakes wins during the season, with four each, all at Pennsylvania tracks - Ted and Robin Stepanoff's homebred 5-year-old mare Jet Away Jane; Roll Z Dice Racing Stable's 4-year-old filly Miss Blue Tye Dye, bred by Shirley Lojeski; and the 4-year-old gelding Whistle Pig, bred by Elizabeth Houghton and owned by HACK Stable.

Pennsylvania's top breeder by number of stakes winners was perennial leader George Strawbridge. He not only bred five stakes winners, he campaigned all of them, topped by graded winner Palmilla, a daughter of the late stallion Crowd Pleaser, another Strawbridge homebred.

The stallion market in Pennsylvania is a constantly changing landscape, made evident by the top 10 leading sires of 2008, of whom only two, Lite the Fuse and Wheaton, had Pennsylvania-sired foals of racing age to represent them. Topping the list, with more than $3.5 million in 2008 progeny earnings, is Cat Thief, who is standing his first season in Pennsylvania in 2009 at Penn Ridge Farms in Harrisburg. Partner's Hero, Real Quiet, Albert the Great, and Buddha rounded out the top five spots.

The leading juvenile sire by progeny earnings, with more than $450,000, is another recent arrival, Wiseman's Ferry. A son of Hennessy, he stood his first Pennsylvania season at Dana Point Farm in Lenhartsville. The leading sire of 2-year-old winners, with 11, was Delaware Township, whose first Pennsylvania-sired crop arrives this year. He recently joined the roster at Penn Ridge Farms.