09/05/2008 12:00AM

Sam-Son's presence hasn't diminished


Only five days into 2008, the legendary Sam-Son Farms was rocked by the passing of its president, Tammy Balaz, daughter of the late founder Ernie Samuel.

Balaz, who was just 47 but battled cancer, had continued on with her father's legacy of breeding world-class racehorses and building up a spectacular broodmare band.

Two months after Balaz's death, her 74-year-old mother, Elizabeth Samuel, also succumbed to cancer.

The sad beginning to the new year for Sam-Son left many Thoroughbred industry members wondering whether the farm would continue operations as it has for more than four decades.

Well, one look at the entries for Woodbine's important racing card on Sunday confirms that the famous red-and-gold silks are not going anywhere.

The farm has four horses entered in three graded stakes, including Mulmur, a longshot in the $1 million Woodbine Mile.

"I can't say it's business as usual," said Rick Balaz, Tammy's husband, who now has a leading role in operation of the farm and has two teenaged children. "Tammy's passing had a big effect on our life but we will be moving forward."

Balaz said Lisa, 16, and Michael, 14, are currently immersed in show jumping each weekend but want to keep the racing and breeding business going along with Tammy's other family members, including brother Mark Samuel.

"It's the only discussion we have ever had," said Balaz. "We may tighten things up a bit" in terms of horse numbers, "but there are no plans to change anything."

Balaz and farm manager David Whitford say the "magic number" of broodmares is approximately 25 but there are currently 45 at the Milton, Ontario, farm.

There are 13 scheduled to sell in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, a regular occurrence, since the Samuel family believes in culling.

Among the mares in that auction is stakes winner High Button Shoes, a Mr. Greeley mare in foal to A.P. Indy.

Mulmur is a son of the Sam-Son bred superstar stallion Smart Strike, sire of, among others, Curlin. Mulmur is out of a true blue Sam-Son mare Wilderness Storm.

Wilderness Storm is a winning daughter of Wilderness Song, who was inducted into Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 28.

Wilderness Song, a Grade 1-winning daughter of Wild Again, is a pensioner at Sam-Son, having slipped in 2007 and not gotten in foal this past spring.

Mulmur's dam, Wilderness Storm, is no longer in the Sam-Son fold: She was sold to Japanese interests in 2003 for $280,000.

But there still are a few siblings to Mulmur's dam in the broodmare band who are producing foals, including young winners Song of the Wild and Distant Roar.

Mulmur, named after a town in northern Ontario, recently had a career peak effort winning the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes and will appreciate the Woodbine Mile distance.

In the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes, Sam-Son will be presented by homebred French Beret, winner of the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley Handicap in January at Fair Grounds and recently third in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes. The 5-year-old French Beret is by Broad Brush out of Wonder Where Stakes winner Misty Mission.

In the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes, Quiet Jungle will try and better recent second- and third-place finishes in graded events and win her first stakes. She is a homebred 4-year-old filly by Forest Wildcat out of Split the Arrow.

She has a "rabbit'" stablemate in Stroke the Tiger, by Smart Strike.