10/25/2001 11:00PM

Siphonic carries stable colors alone


ELMONT, N.Y. - John Amerman could have had one of the favorites for the Breeders' Cup Classic. But, he opted against paying an $800,000 supplemental fee that would have made Lido Palace, who was not nominated to the World Thoroughbred Championships, eligible for the race.

Amerman could have had a major player for the Breeders' Cup Distaff. But he decided not to put up the $400,000 that would have made his mare Printemps eligible for that race.

One doesn't serve as chairman and CEO of toymaker Mattel Inc. for 10 years without first acquiring a keen sense of business acumen.

While two of the stars of his stable will remain in their stalls on World Thoroughbred Championships Day, Amerman and his wife, Jerome (nicknamed Jerry), will still be at Belmont Park with a large stake in the Breeders' Cup races. The Amermans own Siphonic, winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and one of the contenders in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

That the Amermans could have had three major players in the Breeders' Cup demonstrates how far their stable has come in a short time.

The Amermans have owned horses since 1987, when Jerry Amerman retrieved a flyer that John Amerman had tossed into the garbage can. It was a brochure from Clover Racing Stables (known today as Team Valor) extolling the virtues of Thoroughbred ownership.

"You know how you go through junk mail," John Amerman said. "I said 'Look at this, we too could be owners of a horse. Yeah, that's silly,' and threw it out. She ran over and got it out and she said, 'That's what we always wanted to do.' "

The Amermans soon joined the Clover syndicate, and their initial foray into Thoroughbred ownership was not pleasant. One horse did not make it to the races; the other was awful when he ran.

Things got better. The Amermans were part of the syndicate that owned Star of Cozzene, a horse who won 14 of 38 starts, including the Arlington Million, and earned $2.3 million. Star of Cozzene was the first Breeders' Cup starter the Amermans were involved with. He had to be supplemented to the 1991 Mile for a fee of $120,000. His third-place finish got back exactly that amount, but the group lost money after paying trainer and jockey fees.

Eventually, Team Valor would sell Star of Cozzene to Japanese interests and all the partners made money. "We said, gee, this is an easy business, let's go out on our own," John Amerman, 69, said.

The Amermans went out on their own in 1995, attending the yearling sales and using connections in the Southern Hemisphere to buy horses. One horse they bought was Happyuanunoit, a New Zealand-bred mare who won three Grade 1 stakes before being retired earlier this year.

Last year, the Amermans hit two home runs in Chile. In purchases two months apart, they picked up Lido Palace and Printemps. Lido Palace would win Chile's triple crown for colts, while Printemps would win Chile's filly triple crown.

Once in North America, Lido Palace was turned over to Bobby Frankel. He developed Lido Palace into one of the top handicap horses in the country. Lido Palace won the Whitney at Saratoga and the Woodward at Belmont, defeating Albert the Great both times.

Printemps, who is trained by Ron McAnally, won the Hawthorne and Saint Lucia handicaps before suffering from stiffness that sidelined her for the summer. She returned to the races in October, running third in the Overbrook Spinster.

Before attending the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sales, the Amermans thumbed through the catalog, taking particular notice of the progeny of Siphon, winner of the 1996 Hollywood Gold Cup and 1997 Santa Anita Handicap.

"We loved Siphon," Amerman said. "I loved the way he ran. He'd run on the front end and then when they'd come to him, he'd shift into another gear. We picked out all the Siphons and when we got to Keeneland we looked at them and Siphonic stood out."

The Amermans purchased Siphonic for $210,000, what John Amerman called "a fair price."

The Amermans own Peacefield Farm, in Temecula, Calif., a 63-acre farm that serves as a rehabilitation facility for race and show horses. They have their racing stock prepared at San Luis Rey Downs in California. John Amerman invites trainers to come to the farm and pick out the horses they are interested in training. They invited David Hofmans, who was immediately drawn to Siphonic.

"We never had a horse with David," Amerman said. "His reputation preceded him as being a great developer of 2-year-old horses. That's proven to be correct. He's done a heck of a job with this horse."

Siphon won his maiden his first time out at Hollywood Park. He returned six weeks later to romp by six lengths in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. Saturday, he must take on Officer, undefeated in five starts and the most impressive juvenile seen in years.

"Officer's been fabulous," Amerman said. "You can't say anything wrong about Officer, he's a tremendous colt. The only thing that gives us some sort of hope is one, we got a very good horse. Two, Officer has had everything his own way. Three, he hasn't run in big fields. I certainly think he deserves the favorite's role that he's going to have."

John Amerman is content with having just one shot in this year's Breeders' Cup races when he could very well have had three.

"I'm a great believer in looking forward and never looking back," he said. "Decisions are fun to make and you make them and you just go forward from there. I haven't given any further thought what would have been."

With Lido Palace, Printemps, and Siphonic all scheduled to run next year, Amerman would rather spend his time thinking what might be.