10/12/2006 11:00PM

Several share in Great Hunter's win

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Great Hunter's victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on Oct. 7 pointed out the positive direction of his sire's stud career and brought a smile of just satisfaction to his breeder's face.

In defeating Circular Quay, Great Hunter also made a case as a contender in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and, therefore, as the leading juvenile colt in the country.

Those are exceptional accomplishments for a colt who brought only $30,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale. Russell Jones, who consigned Great Hunter for Phil Fanning's Ivy Dell Stud through Walnut Green Sales Agency, said that he was in the back walking ring at Keeneland when Ron McAnally approached him and asked if the colt was okay on the vet report.

"I told him there was no problem with the colt," said Jones. "Ron ended up getting him for $30,000, which was a meager price for such a nice colt, and came back to me after the sale asking if the horse was really all right. There wasn't a pimple on him."

Great Hunter's current owner, Paul Reddam, purchased him privately after Great Hunter won his maiden at Lone Star in his second start. Now, Great Hunter is a Grade 1 winner, which is good for all connected to him, including his sire, Aptitude.

Aptitude stands at Juddmonte Farms in Lexington, and farm manager Garrett O'Rourke said that Great Hunter's victory in the Breeders' Futurity was a big boost to Aptitude.

"[The win] is a big-time endorsement for the sire, because Aptitude is a classic performer himself whom we hoped would throw classic performers," said O'Rourke. "And Great Hunter is a horse who's performing as a 2-year-old, and he obviously needed to go two turns."

Great Hunter had been second in three consecutive graded stakes in California before his win at Keeneland in the Breeders' Futurity. His improvement and maturation are consistent with the progeny of Aptitude, a son of A.P. Indy who improved greatly at 3, when he finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, and at 4, when he won the Hollywood Gold Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

A.P. Indy was a somewhat late-maturing juvenile who became a classic winner and Horse of the Year. Now one of the breed's most successful and highly prized stallions, A.P. Indy is also siring sons with the capacity to sire classic horses and juvenile champions. Sons of A.P. Indy have sired the last two champion 2-year-old males: Declan's Moon (Malibu Moon) and Stevie Wonderboy (Stephen Got Even).

Aptitude already had shown capability as a classic sire with his first-crop racer Steppenwolfer, who ran third in this year's Kentucky Derby, and he also has the graded winner Outperformance and Sky Diving among his good 3-year-olds.

Great Hunter is from Aptitude's second crop and is out of the stakes-winning Roy mare Zenith, whom Fanning bought for $150,000 at the Keeneland November sale in 2001.

"I was in the process of upgrading the broodmare band and went to Keeneland looking for better mares than I had," said Fanning. "Although she was a maiden, Zenith was a beautiful mare, and with her second foal [Great Hunter], I got very lucky."

Fanning said he came to purchase Zenith because he had seen Roy at Darby Dan Farm and liked the way he looked. Roy was a big, rangy Fappiano horse with plenty of bone and scope.

"Then when I saw her, I thought she was the twin of her sire," said Fanning.

Fanning first sent Zenith to the A.P. Indy stallion Old Trieste (sire of Silver Train) and then to Aptitude at Juddmonte Farm, because the breeder "loved Aptitude in appearance, he was a high-class racehorse, and I've admired Juddmonte for a long time," Fanning said.

In addition, the mating that produced Great Hunter is the preferred cross of A.P. Indy over Mr. Prospector.

"Many sons of A.P. Indy, like Pulpit, are out of Mr. Prospector mares," said O'Rourke. "Aptitude offers breeders a chance to send some speedy Mr. Prospector-line mares to a son of A.P. Indy and get something like Great Hunter."

Great Hunter is the first Grade 1 winner for Fanning, a former steeplechase rider who began breeding Thoroughbreds about 40 years ago.

"I've not done great with the commercial side, but I've tried to improve the breed, and I really love the sport," he said.

Fanning still has three Thoroughbreds in training but sold off the last of his broodmares and young horses at the Keeneland January sale this year. Among those were Zenith and her yearling filly by Honour and Glory, who brought $75,000. Zenith brought only $30,000. In foal to the A.P. Indy stallion Golden Missile, Zenith was sold out of the Walnut Green consignment to Daniel Ryan, who is a client of that agency.

Jones noted that Zenith has a nice Golden Missile colt and is not back in foal. He said he is planning to "step her up a little" after Great Hunter's Breeders' Futurity success, but the new owner and his advisers have not finalized their selection.