06/23/2005 11:00PM

Saint Liam's Foster tops Evans's big weekend


Edward P. Evans works diligently to breed a better racehorse. And the master of Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., who has assembled a band of nearly 90 broodmares and turned nearly 3,000 acres of Virginia countryside into a horse paradise, continues to rise in the ranks of the nation's leading breeders. But his results last weekend were exceptional, even by Evans's lofty standards.

The Evans-bred Saint Liam, a 5-year-old son of Saint Ballado, provided the highlight when he captured the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, ensuring his place among the nation's top handicap horses. At Delaware Park, Evans's homebred 3-year-old filly Pleasant Chimes surprised overwhelming favorite Dance Away Capote to win the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes. Add in a first and a third in Colonial Downs's opening-weekend Oakley Stakes with the 3-year-old fillies Cherry Hill Lady and Maria's Dance, and Evans topped all breeders in the nation by earnings last week.

Evans is currently the nation's fifth-ranked breeder of 2005, with more than $2.5 million from a total of 100 runners. Among them is Gygistar, winner of the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap in May. He surpassed $1 million in earnings with a second-place finish in the Brooklyn Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Evans also bred multiple stakes winner Tap Day, winner of the Frisk Me Now Stakes at Monmouth Park at the end of May.

"Mr. Evans is a student of the business, especially the breeding aspect," said Spring Hill farm manager Chris Baker. "He develops his own lists and ultimately makes the final decisions for the matings."

Saint Liam, though foaled in Kentucky, was raised in Virginia and descends from one of the foundation lines that Evans has developed over the years, that of the Misty Flight mare Flight Dancer. Her dam, Courbette, was by Native Dancer out of the great race mare Gallorette.

Evans had great success with Flight Dancer's daughter Minstrella, a filly he bred and campaigned in Ireland and England, where she won three Group 1 races and was named champion 2-year-old in Ireland. Minstrella has produced three stakes winners for Evans, including graded winners Colonial Minstrel and Minidar. Evans also bred and raced Flight Dancer's multiple graded-stakes-winning filly Misty Gallore, the dam of successful sire Silver Ghost.

Evans sold Flight Dancer in the mid-1980's, but didn't lose touch with the family. When the Quiet American filly Quiet Dance, a granddaughter of Flight Dancer, was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in 1994, Evans purchased her for $75,000. Quiet Dance became a stakes winner, earned $224,240, and joined Evans's broodmare band. Saint Liam is her second foal; she has also produced graded stakes winner Congressionalhonor, now 4. Both colts were sold as yearlings: Saint Liam for $130,000 at Saratoga and Congressionalhonor (by Forestry) for $67,000 at Keeneland September.

"Saint Liam was always a strong, stout individual," said Baker, who said the colt just happened to be one they chose to sell that year. Evans still owns Saint Liam's full brother the 3-year-old Dance Quiet, who won his maiden convincingly on Thursday at Monmouth Park.

Pleasant Chimes, a Virginia-bred daughter of Pleasant Tap (who was bred by Evans's father, Thomas Mellon Evans), is out of Dixie Chimes, a mare purchased by Evans as a yearling for $100,000, and so isn't rooted as deeply to Spring Hill. But the duo of Cherry Hill Lady and Maria's Dance are fourth-generation products of Evans's breeding program.

The two descend from the same female line as another of Evans's foundation mares, Intentional Move (by Tentam out of Lunar Dancer, by Northern Dancer). Cherry Hill Lady, a daughter of Grand Slam out of stakes-placed Casanova Storm (by Storm Cat), was sold as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic February sale of 2003 for $12,500. Maria's Dance, by Maria's Mon out of Ransom Dance (by Red Ransom), races for Evans.