02/28/2003 1:00AM

Sea of Tranquility is horse of the year

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New Jersey's breeding and racing industry has hit a low point over the past several years, but there is no shortage of quality among the 2002 statebred champions.

Named New Jersey-bred horse of the year for the third consecutive season, Sea of Tranquility was a consistent runner who won three stakes races, including the Grade 3 Salvator Mile Handicap. He also placed in five others as a 6-year-old in 2002. Sea of Tranquility has earned a total of $651,670, including $188,312 in 2002, for owner/trainer Richard Paulus, who bought him for $6,500 at the 1998 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2-year-olds in training sale.

Sea of Tranquility was bred by Dennis Drazin, a Red Bank, N.J., attorney who serves as counsel to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. Drazin purchased Sea of Tranquility's dam, Bonkey (by Fit to Fight), for $8,000 at the 1991 Keeneland September yearling sale. Bonkey produced Sea of Tranquility as her third foal by Heff, a son of Alydar whom Drazin also owned. Heff launched his career in Florida, then was moved to New Jersey where he proved a welcome addition to the stallion ranks.

Heff died in the fall of 2000 after only two seasons at Greenfields Farm in Colts Neck.

New Jersey's other 2002 champions are:

o Forever Partners (Not For Love-My New Pal, by Saratoga Six): 2-year-old filly. Bred by Cynthia and Walter Reese's Timber Creek Farm and sold for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale, Forever Partners came close to perfection in three starts for Skeedattle Stable and trainer Tony Dutrow. She won Monmouth's Colleen Stakes and finished second to Awesome Humor in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, earning $91,600.

o Kaw Liga Sioux (Northern Idol-Saucy Sioux, by Better Arbitor): 2-year-old colt. Winner of the New Jersey Futurity, Kaw Liga Sioux campaigned as a homebred for perennially successful owner-breeders Gerald and Carolyn Sleeter, winning 3 of 4 starts and earning $106,102. Kaw Liga Sioux is from the final crop of Northern Idol, who made his career at Sleeter Farm in Clementon, and ranked as the leading sire of New Jersey-bred runners in 2002. Northern Idol, only 13 at the time of his death in 1999, had his best year in 2002, with progeny earnings of $1,013,500.

o Our Wildcat (Forest Wildcat-Our Pesaridan, by Affirmed): 3-year-old colt. Bred, owned, and trained by Edwin Broome. Won the Rumson Stakes at Monmouth and placed in two other added-money races for earnings of $137,073.

o Willie's Luv (Williamstown-Dixie Fever, by Dixieland Brass): 3-year-old filly. Dr. Y.J. "Jerry" Kolybabiuk and his wife, Maria, saw results from their breeding program at Freedom Acres Farm in Moorestown grow in 2002 as never before. They bred and raced two New Jersey-bred champions (see American Freedom, below). The star of their stable, second-generation homebred Willie's Luv, won the Pennsylvania Oaks and Santa Lalomia Handicap and placed in one other stakes race, earning $124,005.

o American Freedom (1998, by Marquetry-Got a Cold, by Drone): champion turf horse. Jerry Kolybabiuk purchased Got a Cold for $13,000 at the 1991 Keeneland November sale, with Dixie Fever (dam of New Jersey-bred champion Willie's Luv) in utero. Got a Cold has produced four stakes horses, including American Freedom, who won last year's Lincroft Handicap and finished second in the John Henry Stakes, for season's earnings of $111,200.

o Blinded by Love (1998, Not For Love-Running On Faith, by Assert-Ire.): champion handicap mare. Blinded by Love, bred by Rising Sun Farm Inc., carried the colors of prominent New Jersey owner Eb Novak's New Farm to victory in the Maryland Million Distaff and placed in one other stakes race, earning $112,550.

o Summer Swing (1997, Not For Love-Summer Semester, by Better Arbitor): champion sprinter. Another Sleeter homebred (like Kaw Liga Sioux), Summer Swing racked up three stakes wins at Monmouth and was also three times stakes placed, for earnings of $129,000.