06/12/2003 12:00AM

Roberto still influencing Classics


LEXINGTON, Ky. - On June 6, the Red Ransom filly Casual Look narrowly won the English Oaks from the Sadler's Wells filly Yesterday, and the next day, Kris Kin, a son of Kris S., defied his competition through the stretch at Epsom to claim the Derby.

The winners of both of the 12-furlong English classics at Epsom Downs were sired by sons of the late Darby Dan stallion Roberto, and both were bred with associations to Lane's End Farm.

Lane's End owner Will Farish bred and races Casual Look, and he was on hand to watch his filly win at Epsom. Farish, the U.S. ambassador to England, said, "It's a great, great thrill, particularly for her to have been a homebred and to have raised her dam and her second dam."

After going to England, Farish "decided to bring over five or six 2-year-olds each year that I hoped would fit, and fortunately we found one who did" in Casual Look, he said. She will run next in the July 13 Irish Oaks, Farish said, "all things being equal."

Farish's decision to race Casual Look in Europe benefited the filly.

"She pretty much indicated from the beginning that she wanted to stretch out," Farish said. "Her full sister Shabby Chic was the same way. We ran Casual Look last year in the Fillies Mile, and she was second but ran a very big race. We brought her out this year and ran in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket at a mile, only beaten about four lengths, and that seemed to be just what she wanted. When we stretched her out, she responded beautifully."

Farish bred Casual Look's dam, the Manila mare Style Setter, and that mare's dam, the General Assembly mare Charleston Rag, winner of the Frizette at 2.

Noting the family resemblance, Farish said, "Casual Look's a good-sized filly, has some length to her - takes a good deal after her mother's sire, Manila, who was probably as good a grass horse as we've ever seen." Manila stood at Lane's End after becoming Eclipse champion turf horse, but his appeal with commercial breeders eventually declined, and he was sold to the Turkish Jockey Club.

That did not deter Farish from using him. The breeder reasoned that Manila "was a grass horse and was getting grass horses, which seemed to discourage a lot of people, but he's getting to be a useful broodmare sire." He also helps to add classic stamina to pedigrees.

As Farish said, "In the Oaks, and particularly at Epsom, you never know who will want to go that mile and a half, and it's more like a mile and five-eighths, because the first half-mile is uphill, then you go downhill, then you finish uphill."

The following day, Kris Kin was battling up the same hill. The son of Kris S. was raised at the Lane's End Oak Tree division, where the Niarchos family's Flaxman Holdings bloodstock is located. Flaxman bred and sold the Derby winner through Lane's End, which acted as agent. Flaxman annually sells a group of yearlings to help keep the operation fiscally sound.

Charlie Gordon-Watson, agent for Saeed Suhail, purchased Kris Kin at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $275,000 in 2001, the day after the World Trade Center was destroyed. Nearly two years later, the colt has won three of his four starts. He is also the second Derby winner sired by a son of Roberto; Silver Hawk's son Benny the Dip won the race in 1997.

Roberto, a son of the Turn-to stallion and 2-year-old champion Hail to Reason, won the English Derby 31 years ago. Bred and raced by the great international sportsman Daniel Galbreath, Roberto returned to stand at stud at his birthplace. At Darby Dan, Roberto became one of the best-known stallions of the great international period in breeding, from the late 1970's through the 1980's.

Roberto had the speed to be a highweight juvenile colt in Europe, and the following season he reinforced the impact that American breeding was having on the English classics. Sir Ivor had won the 2000 Guineas and Derby in 1968. Nijinsky had trumped that achievement by winning the English Triple Crown in 1970. Then Mill Reef came along the next year to win the Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes, and Arc de Triomphe. To have Roberto show high form at 2 and then win the 1972 Derby was a clear barometer for astute breeders that the winds of change were blowing from the west.

Roberto, however, was not finished. In addition to succeeding in the Derby, Roberto became the only horse to defeat the great Brigadier Gerard with a victory in the Gold Cup at York in 1972.

In that race, Braulio Baeza used Roberto's speed aggressively to steal away from his rival, and the year-older Brigadier Gerard finished three lengths behind.

A speedy and good-looking horse who stayed 12 furlongs well, even when ridden very enterprisingly, Roberto was an immediate success at stud. A good-sized horse, Roberto tended to sire horses with size and substance. Some were coarse, and few were petite.

Red Ransom and Kris S. were two of Roberto's more substantial sons, and of the two, Red Ransom was hands-down the fastest. He set a track record for five furlongs at Saratoga in his debut and became a serious talking horse after that performance. Unfortunately, Red Ransom made only two subsequent starts but, like his sire, began his stud career with success from his first racers. The best horses from Red Ransom include champions Perfect Sting and Intikhab, as well as Grade 1 winner Bail Out Becky. Red Ransom stands at Vinery for $45,000 live foal.

A tall and rangy horse who initially went to stud in Florida at Meadowbrook of Ocala, Kris S. also found success early, and his best offspring include champions Soaring Softly and Hollywood Wildcat, as well as Grade 1 winners Arch, Brocco, Cheval Volant, Kissin Kris, Prized, and You and I, along with Group 1 winner Dr Fong. Kris S. spent his latter years at stud at the Preston brothers' Prestonwood Farm, now WinStar, and was put down last year due to complications from a neck problem. His last advertised stud fee was $150,000.