10/21/2004 11:00PM

Roman Ruler's kingdom may come


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Just as a Julius Caesar parlayed small victories into great victories and grew to rule the world, racehorses also can parlay their talents into unexpected dominion. Breeders' Cup Juvenile favorite Roman Ruler stands at the edge of a great divide. If he crosses the Rubicon and, like Caesar before him, meets with great success, Roman Ruler will become the winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby and the most talked-about horse for the races leading up to the Triple Crown next season.

In addition to Roman Ruler's talent and potential, he is also a first-crop son of the 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, a tremendous physical specimen who brought a sale-topping $4 million from Fusao Sekiguchi at the Keeneland July yearling sale in 1998. The only Kentucky Derby winner by the great sire Mr. Prospector, Fusaichi Pegasus lived up to expectations as a racehorse, winning 6 of 9 starts and earning more than $1.9 million under the careful training of Neil Drysdale.

With stallion rights to the Derby winner sold to Coolmore for some $60 million part-way through his 3-year-old season, Fusaichi Pegasus went to stud at Coolmore's American operation, Ashford Stud, in 2001. The impressive bay horse met with an enthusiastic reception from breeders, even though he was standing for a six-figure stud fee.

Fusaichi Pegasus married racetrack performance, physical excellence, and pedigree quality to a degree uncommon in stallion prospects. And these factors drew the breeders of Roman Ruler to the stallion as a mate for their mare Silvery Swan, a daughter of the good sire Silver Deputy.

"As a breeder, I love Mr. Prospector on top of Deputy Minister, and Fusaichi Pegasus, with his good size and scope, is a perfect physical match for Silvery Swan," said Rob Whiteley of Liberation Farm.

Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds, and Ashford Stud, Roman Ruler is the third high-class racehorse out of Silvery Swan. Although she did not race, Silvery Swan has proven to be a successful producer to an uncommon degree.

Her first Grade 1 winner is the young stallion El Corredor, who was a contemporary of Fusaichi Pegasus on the racetrack, finishing second to him in the Jerome in 2000.

Winner of the Cigar Mile later that year, El Corredor won 7 of 10 starts, and entered stud at Hill 'n Dale Farm near Lexington in 2002. A strong and handsome horse, El Corredor has made a good start with his first crop of yearlings this year.

El Corredor was Silvery Swan's first foal, and her second racer was Grade 3 winner Silver Tornado, by Maria's Mon.

After showing she could do great things as broodmare by producing those two as her first offspring, Silvery Swan was bred to Fusaichi Pegasus, and Roman Ruler is her fifth foal. Showing high athletic ability like his older siblings, Roman Ruler became a graded stakes winner with victory in the Norfolk Stakes earlier this month.

The bay colt's only loss is a second to Declan's Moon in the Del Mar Futurity, when he ran a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, exceptional for such a young horse.

Roman Ruler has always been a good prospect. At the September sales last year, he had much of the size and visual appeal of his sire.

"As a sales horse, Roman Ruler had exceptional athleticism, and with his physique and family, he's going to make somebody a great sire prospect," Whiteley said.

Not surprisingly, the colt brought a half-million dollars, making him the seventh-highest price among all the yearlings from the first crop by Fusaichi Pegasus.

Whiteley is co-breeder of El Corredor and Roman Ruler, as well as the outstanding Strong Hope.

"Silvery Swan is an impressive, good-bodied mare with tremendous presence, a great eye, and a demeanor that exudes class," he said. "Fortunately, she is passing those qualities on to her offspring like so many daughters and granddaughters of Deputy Minister have a way of doing. She and Strong Hope's dam, Shining Through, have a lot of Grade 1 class in common."

Although neither Silvery Swan or Shining Through had the chance to prove her ability on the racetrack, each had the physical assets and the competitive inclination to have been racehorses, and they have consistently transmitted those qualities to their offspring.

Silvery Swan has a weanling filly by Mr. Greeley, is in foal to champion Vindication on an April 11 cover, and is booked to Grand Slam for next year.