01/24/2003 12:00AM

Saga of Bon Point a sob story no longer


Doug Henderson of Marablue Farm knows well the ups and downs of the stallion game. In the last few months he lost the promising young sire Zamindar to European breeders, and Marablue's popular stallion Tactical Advantage died suddenly.

"No one ever said this is an easy game," Henderson said.

Added to Henderson's mix of downers is the situation with his young stallion Bon Point. Henderson had sent Bon Point to Argentina on a lend-lease arrangement, reasoning the stallion's turf pedigree would complement South American mares and that "dual hemisphere breeding gives you another iron in the fire."

But what initially appeared to be a good business move turned into a costly misadventure when the Argentine peso collapsed. Bon Point recently returned to Marablue, where he will stand for $2,500.

Bon Point had a couple of runners last year from his first crop, but none of them won. But then they started to race on the turf and things began to happen.

"So far at Gulfstream," Henderson said, "three have run on the grass, two of them won first out and the other was a flying third. It looks like he's going to be a turf sire, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's plenty of money out there for a good turf horse."

Bon Point is a son of the multiple Group 1 winner Soviet Star, the highweighted male miler in France in 1987 and 1988. Bon Point's dam is by Kings Lake and the next dam is by Stage Door Johnny - all in all a solid black-type pedigree.

Bon Point was unraced at 2. At 3, he won a Group 3 race in France and a year later he won the Grade 2 Col. F.W. Koester Handicap at Santa Anita. He was active for four American campaigns and placed in the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita as a 7-year-old.

Finally, a Nureyev in Florida

The late sire Nureyev has made his mark almost everywhere but Florida. The fact is, until Istintaj arrived earlier this month at Hartley/De Renzo & Walmac South there was no stallion in Florida by Nureyev.

With most Florida breeders focusing on the 2-year-olds in training markets, Nureyev, who made his reputation siring middle-distance turf horses, was a tough sell in Florida.

Istintaj was at first unexceptional on the track. He won his maiden at a small English track as a 3 year-old and did little to draw attention. But his career turned around when he came to the United States at 4. He quickly went through his allowance conditions sprinting on the dirt at Belmont and Saratoga. In his first American campaign, Istintaj won 4 of 8 starts and finished second in two Grade 3 sprint stakes.

As a 5-year-old he won two Grade 3 sprint stakes at Gulfstream: the Deputy Minister Handicap, defeating the top-class sprinter Delaware Township, and the Mr. Prospector Handicap. He went on to place in two more stakes as a 5-year-old.

"He's a neat horse, about 15-2 hands, and has the look of a sprinter," said Dick Lossen, who manages the stallion. "And he has a beautiful head, just like Nureyev."

Istintaj is out of the winner Mathkurh, by Riverman. He is a half-brother to the Irish champion 2-year-old filly Asfurum and the family traces to the blue-hen producer Astrid Wood, dam of the champion stayers Levmoss and Le Moss.

The fee for Istintaj is $3,000, due when the foal stands and nurses.