07/19/2001 11:00PM

At River Edge, a few top juveniles got away


DEL MAR, Calif. - It would be easy for Marty Wygod and Russell Drake to categorize Fancy Prancer and Officer as 2-year-olds who got away.

Last year, both were sold as yearlings. They have already advanced to the stakes level in their brief careers.

For Wygod, who bred the pair at River Edge Farm, which Drake manages, it would be easy to be disappointed. Except he owns both the sire and dam of both juveniles, two of the most promising California-bred 2-year-olds.

"The better they are, the happier I am," Wygod said. "I'm breeding 60 to 70 foals a year. I have to sell."

But there is a process that determines which foals are sold and which are kept by Wygod to race with his wife, Pam. The process falls on the shoulders of Drake, who could easily be bitter about letting a few potential stars get by, but insists that he is not.

"I'm kind of responsible for it," Drake said. "I'm the one that chooses which one goes in the sale. Sometimes they get by you. Also, you have families that you don't know a lot about. If I knew we're all the runners were, I'd be set."

"I'm the guy who looks bad, but I think I'm a good judge of weanlings and yearlings. I admire someone who can see the future in 2-year-olds."

Fancy Prancer sold for just $20,000 at a yearling sale in Arizona, won a minor stakes at Prairie Meadows on June 29 and started in Friday's $125,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes at Del Mar.

Officer, a maiden winner at Hollywood Park, will be favored to win Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes for 2-year-old California-breds. He was sold by Wygod for $175,000 last August at the Del Mar Yearling Sale and sold for $700,000 by Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock to Thoroughbred Corp. at the Barretts March Sale of 2-year-olds in-training. Trainer Bob Baffert has said that Officer is one of his most promising 2-year-olds.

Both 2-year-old are by top California sire Bertrando, but come from mares found for reasonable prices by Drake at the 1997 Keeneland November breeding sale.

St. Helens Shadow, the dam of Officer, cost $117,000. She was best at 2, winning the Kachina Stakes for fillies at Ruidoso Downs. Bought in foal to Mountain Cat, Officer is her second foal. Her first, Whimsical Goddess, is in training with Julio Canani, Drake said.

St. Helens Shadow is 8, and was bred to Bertrando this year. Wygod has a full brother to Officer that Drake says he will not sell.

"We were looking for the type that looked like they would cross well with Bertrando," Drake said. "She's fit the bill pretty good. From looking at her, she's done well with him."

Fancy Prancer is out of Oh No It's You, who is by Miswaki. She was bought for $60,000, and is off to a successful start as a broodmare. Oh No It's You is the dam of Alyou, the winner of this year's Albuquerque Derby, and Blushing Deed, who was second in the Grade 2 Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park in 1998.

Fancy Prancer was sent to the Arizona yearling sale, which Wygod has supported for nearly a decade. Her success, which before Friday included a win in the Prairie Gold Lassie Stakes at Prairie Meadows, has been a surprise to Drake.

"When she was a yearling I thought I picked the wrong kind of mare," he said. "The mare's type does well with Bertrando. She was a good-sized yearling when I sold her. She might not finish growing until she's 16 or 17 hands. She was a bit tall and immature as a yearling."

This summer, River Edge will have eight yearlings in the Del Mar Sale, including three by Benchmark and two by Bertrando. Even with well-bred yearlings, it will not be easy to surpass last year's success with Officer.

"We have to sell a certain number of runners to keep things going at the farm," Drake. "I was tickled Officer bought $175,000. I hope they turn him into a champion."