12/28/2005 12:00AM

Schwartz stable goes national


ARCADIA, Calif. - Barry Schwartz was doing some good, old-fashioned yelling at the television screen in his New York farmhouse last Monday as Attila's Storm hit the top of the Santa Anita stretch with dead aim on victory in the opening-day Malibu Stakes.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Attila's Storm came up a length short of beating Proud Tower Too at the end of the seven furlongs, forcing Schwartz and his partners to settle for a solid second.

"It broke my heart," said Schwartz, former CEO of Calvin Klein, who was actually suffering from nothing more than a head cold. "I really thought he was home. I didn't expect as big an effort as I got, but when they turned for home I thought he was going to win it. That's what was really disappointing."

Far from discouraged, Schwartz will jump right back into the fire on Saturday with a pair of late-blooming 3-year-old fillies in the $250,000 La Brea Stakes, a seven-furlong event that offers the added temptation of a Grade 1 ranking. A full gate, topped by Test Stakes winner Leave Me Alone, is anticipated.

Mystic Chant and Great Intentions, both stakes winners trained by Mike Hushion, were in the air Wednesday afternoon heading from Long Island to Los Angeles, where they will take up temporary residence in the barn of Eduardo Inda. It was Inda who engineered the biggest West Coast victory for the stable of Schwartz and his wife, Sheryl, when India Divina captured the 1999 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita.

Since then, Schwartz has been competing primarily with his homebred runners, and because there are such rich New York incentives in place, few of them have bothered to stray west. The exception was David, a son of Mt. Livermore who hit the board in the 2000 runnings of the Hollywood Gold Cup and San Bernardino Handicap.

These days, the stable looks different. After Schwartz stepped down as president of the New York Racing Association in 2003, he immediately began to stir the pot, buying yearlings to mix in with his homebreds, with the goal of competing on a national scale.

"Before that I never had the time," he said. "Now I'm very involved with my horses again, and I'm having fun."

That first draft of sales purchases has turned out to be filly rich. They are led by Nothing But Fun (bought for $150,000), who was 4 for 4 before a losing effort in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, as well as Mystic Chant (who cost $200,000) and Great Intentions (a $65,000 steal).

"All the great stables made the mistake of doing all their own breeding and not going to the outside," Schwartz said. "Ultimately their lines died out.

"I haven't gotten to the point yet that I've bred such great horses," Schwartz added. "But it's real easy to get caught up in the breeding and not look to the outside. I had something like 40 mares here at the farm, and now I'm cutting back and bringing in new blood."

Fillies like Mystic Chant (by Unbridled's Song) and Great Intentions (by Cat Thief) have a right to improve any broodmare band, which seems to be a byproduct of the La Brea, if history is to be believed. Past winners include Terlingua (dam of Storm Cat), Great Lady M. (dam of Lady's Secret), Lovlier Linda (dam of Old Trieste), Mitterand (dam of French Deputy), and Hookedonthefeelin, whose daughter Pussycat Doll will be in the La Brea field this year.

With four wins in six starts, including the First Flight Handicap at Aqueduct against older females last time out, Great Intentions is the more accomplished of the two Schwartz fillies. Mystic Chant, at 2 for 4, comes into the race off a win in the restricted Open Mind.

"From day one, Mike has said that Mystic Chant has a world of ability - probably more ability than any other filly in the barn," Schwartz said. "But she's tough to train. A little bit of a head case."

Both Great Intentions and Mystic Chant have early speed, which seems to be a necessary piece of equipment when it comes to winning major races in California. They will also need to overcome the journey.

"I happen to believe the theory about how difficult it is shipping east to west," Schwartz said. "Californians come east and win, while we go west and never win. I think it's because a horse needs a fair amount of time to acclimate when going from cold to warmer weather, whereas they always seem to do well going from warm to colder."

To that end, Schwartz said Attila's Storm would stay in California and run next in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap on Jan. 21. As for his La Brea fillies, they will need to fire right off the plane.

"Grade 1's are never easy, no matter where you find them," Schwartz said. "They're not supposed to be."