06/29/2006 11:00PM

Showing Up's turf score is one to celebrate

Showing Up, by Strategic Mission, is now a two-surface stakes threat.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The victory by Showing Up in the Colonial Turf Cup was a racing result with several upbeat implications. It was, for instance, a deserved boost for Showing Up's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who recently saw two classic winners they had bred become sidelined by injury. The Jacksons raced Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, under their Lael Stables banner, and sold George Washington, who won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

A second positive observation about Showing Up's performance concerns the versatility of the Thoroughbred. Despite claims of increasing specialization, the horses who are the focus of our sport can show considerable versatility when given proper opportunities. Coupled with fearless owners and enterprising trainers, many Thoroughbreds can switch surfaces, distances, and even tactical styles. The chance to see the top level of our racers experiment a bit more in their competition is further encouragement for expanding the categories of champions in the Eclipse Awards, as Steven Crist recently discussed in his Daily Racing Form column.

A third bright spot in the success of Showing Up is the attention it brings to his sire, the Mr. Prospector stallion Strategic Mission. A graded-stakes winner, Strategic Mission is a half-brother to Grade 1 stakes winners Solar Splendor (Turf Classic, Man o' War twice) and Sultry Song (Hollywood Gold Cup, Woodward, Whitney).

Although Solar Splendor was a gelding, Sultry Song proved a useful sire after his retirement to stud, getting many runners and winners. Among his best racers are Breeders' Cup Mile winner Singletary, Prime Timber (San Felipe), and Canadian champion Kirby's Song.

In comparison to his famous siblings, Strategic Mission was a bit of an underachiever as a racehorse, winning stakes at the Grade 3 level. But from the evidence of his first crop at stud, he is showing outstanding potential and performance with his offspring.

Initially sent to stud in Kentucky at Gainesway Farm in 2002, Strategic Mission had only 18 live foals from a limited book of mares in his first season. Just to show that volume isn't everything, the stallion is making a name for himself with those first-crop offspring.

A winner in 4 of his 5 starts, Showing Up also has won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on dirt and is a prospect for Grade 1 races on both turf and dirt this summer.

As agent, Gainesway sold Showing Up at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale for $85,000. Danny Pate's Solitary Oak consigned Showing Up as a pinhook at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training, where the handsome chestnut sold to Lael Stables for $60,000.

In addition to Showing Up, Strategic Mission has sired Golden Strategy, champion 2-year-old and a Grade 1 winner in Panama (winner in 4 of 5 lifetime starts), and his daughter Miss Savannah Rose is expected to start in a stakes at Delaware Park this weekend.

It is tempting to say that the old Mr. Prospector magic has struck again, and that one of the great sire's last sons to enter stud is showing the qualities that made Mr. Prospector such an extraordinary sire of stallions.

"Strategic Mission has an outstanding pedigree, allied with his excellent conformation, that attracted us to the horse," Gainesway's Michael Hernon said. "In addition, he had the quality found in most successful stallions: natural speed. This combination made him an obvious stallion prospect of importance."

The outlook for the young stallion took a dire turn in his second season at stud, however.

"Near the beginning of the breeding season in 2003, Strategic Mission had a minor paddock injury to a hock and missed the rest of the season as a consequence," Hernon said.

While not life-threatening, the injury was a serious blow to the stallion's commercial prospects in the intensely competitive Kentucky market. Strategic Mission had bred only two mares prior to the injury, and has one reported foal from his second crop.

Owned in partnership by Gainesway and Live Oak Stud, Strategic Mission was leased to stand at stud in New York beginning in 2004. He resides at Liberty Stud under the management of Barry Ostrager's Questroyal Stud.

"Mr. Ostrager, who owns Questroyal, tries to put horses where they will do the best," said Chris Bernhard, also of Questroyal. "We have three at Metropolitan Stud, Strategic Mission at Liberty Stud, as well as horses at other farms in the state."

Bernhard noted that Strategic Mission's offspring "have been big, good-bodied foals that looked right." Good-looking foals are necessary, but "people give a lot of respect to a stallion who gets a big horse in his first crop," Bernhard said.

He said Strategic Mission will cover between 90 and 100 mares this season. A big portion of his book came late in the year after Showing Up won the Lexington, and Strategic Mission has an excellent conception rate, with nearly 90 percent of this year's mares in foal.

"Many of the more commercial breeders have supported the horse this year," Bernhard said, "and this large crop will be out of the best mares he's been bred to since he came to New York."