07/23/2007 11:00PM

Sanford pedigrees precocious

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LAS VEGAS - The Sanford Stakes, the feature race Thursday at Saratoga, was first run in 1913. Soon after it attained fame as the only race that Man o' War ever lost. Man o' War's defeat in the 1919 Sanford by the appropriately named Upset was the race that helped Saratoga get its moniker as "the graveyard of favorites."

One of the most significant renewals was in 1972. Linda's Chief, a son of the brilliant Bold Ruler stallion Chieftain, had scored three straight stakes victories - in the Youthful, Juvenile, and Tremont - and was the strong favorite to win the Sanford, but this was the race that revealed Secretariat as something special.

Secretariat was making his fourth start and first stakes appearance in the Sanford. He had been severely bumped at the start and finished fourth in his debut, then won a maiden race and an allowance race.

Anyone who was at Saratoga in 1972 will recall with awe the power that Secretariat displayed in defeating the very good Linda's Chief. Secretariat followed the Sanford with victories in the Hopeful Stakes, Futurity Stakes, Laurel Futurity, and Garden State Stakes. He was much the best when crossing the finish line first in the Champagne, but was disqualified to second behind Stop the Music, with whom he brushed slightly after entering the stretch. Secretariat became the first 2-year-old to be voted Horse of the Year since the voting started in 1936.

Exclusive Native defeated 2-year-old champion Vitriolic to win the Sanford in 1967, and 10 years later his son Affirmed began his ascent by winning the Sanford. Forty Niner won the 1987 renewal en route to his juvenile championship, as did Dehere in 1993, who also added the Saratoga Special and Hopeful Stakes.

Son of a Sanford winner

More Than Ready won the Sanford for Todd Pletcher in 1999, and he is the sire of this year's likely favorite, Ready's Image, who showed the high speed of his sire winning the Tremont Stakes. Ready's Image gets a double dose of precocious speed from his damsire, Clever Trick, who won five stakes as a juvenile.

Pletcher also will run The Roundhouse (by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus), who rallied from far back to score impressively in a maiden race at Monmouth Park. The Roundhouse looked eerily similar to his half-brother Circular Quay, who won last year's Hopeful Stakes in thesame manner.

Two freshman sires (Aldebaran and Sky Mesa) are represented in the Sanford. Aldebaran, a champion sprinter at age 5, is off to a great start. His first three starters won their first start, including Sanford entrant Ascot Hall, who is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Look for Good. Ascot Hall's second dam, Flowers Kris S, is a full sister to Hollywood Starlet winner Stocks Up.

Aldebaran is also the sire of Sanford entrant Shotten Heimer, who is out of the Dixieland Band mare Unending Love. This is the extraordinary Darby Dan female family that produced Monarchos, Dynaformer, Brian's Time, Darby Creek Road, Memories of Silver, and Sunshine Forever.

Sky Mesa, who won the 2002 Hopeful, is the sire of Sanford entrant Twenty Eight Hours, who won his debut and then was third behind Ready's Image in the Tremont. Twenty Eight Hours is out of the Clever Trick mare Game Trick, a half-sister to Sweet Briar Too, the dam of stakes winner and sire Langfuhr.

With class in the dam (and her tail-female family) as the ultimate barometer of racing quality, the Sanford colt that might have the most upside is Tale of Ekati. Tale of Ekati looked like a future star winning his career debut for Barclay Tagg. He won off by 8 1/2 lengths in 1:03.50 for 5 1/2 furlongs at Belmont on July 7. By the speed influence Tale of the Cat, Tale of Ekati is out of the Sunday Silence mare Silence Beauty, a half-sister to champion Sky Beauty and the unraced Our Country Place. Our Country Place produced Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, stakes winner Country Hideaway (dam of Boca Grande), and Matlacha Pass (dam of Pine Island). Tale of Ekati's second dam is Alabama Stakes and Monmouth Oaks winner Maplejinsky, a half-sister to the brilliant European sprinter-miler Dayjur. Tale of Ekati's third dam, Gold Beauty, was the 1982 champion sprinter.

Sanford entrant Little Nick is by the underrated Tiger Ridge (by Storm Cat), a three-quarter brother to Preakness winner Summer Squall and a half-brother to 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy. His second dam, Double Norm, is a half-sister to Linear, who finished third in the 1992 Tremont Stakes.

Selections: Tale of Ekati, Ready's Image, and The Roundhouse.