05/31/2002 12:00AM

Sire of Preakness runnerup gets his props

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It was a Maryland classic coup. As War Emblem and Magic Weisner sought the finish line of the 127th running of the Preakness Stakes, local breeders could revel in that the sires of the top two finishers of Maryland's greatest race both stood this past spring in Maryland.

The voyage of War Emblem's sire, Our Emblem, to Murmur Farm in Maryland is well documented and his stay has been all too brief, and after one breeding season he will return to Kentucky.

Ameri Valay, the sire of second-place finisher Magic Weisner, has his roots planted much more deeply in his home state. With the defection of Our Emblem, Ameri Valay will be the only active Maryland stallion to have sired a classic performer.

Outside of Maryland, the name of Ameri Valay may not be all too familiar. But area residents can easily conjure up images of the flashy bay, who won nine stakes and finished second or third in 15 others - all but one at Maryland tracks - over six seasons of competition. By the time he retired to stud at the Rooney brothers' Shamrock Farms in Woodbine in 1996, Ameri Valay had won 16 races, finished second 10 times, third in 10 others, and earned $742,779 from 68 starts.

Ameri Valay was bred by well-respected Maryland horseman Hal C.B. Clagett in partnership with the Pons family's Country Life Farm. Clagett sent Amerrico's Sphinx, an unraced daughter of Amerrico from the family of famed Clagett-bred warrior Little Bold John, to Country Life Farm stallion Carnivalay, and the result was Ameri Valay - a handsome bay colt with four white feet and a blaze, a near carbon copy of his sire as well as his grandsire, the immortal Northern Dancer.

Clagett never had the opportunity to reap the rewards with Ameri Valay, losing him for $16,000 in a claiming race during the colt's juvenile season.

The good fortune fell to Nick and Elaine Bassford, for whom trainer King T. Leatherbury claimed the just-turned 3-year-old on Jan. 3, 1992, for $35,000.

The Bassfords, from the Maryland town of Davidsonville, were riding a wave of success, and by the end of 1992 were represented by two Maryland-bred champions - horse of the year Brilliant Brass, a mare who went on to earn $767,051, and champion 3-year-old colt Ameri Valay.

Ameri Valay had a demanding 19-start campaign at 3, winning three stakes, including the Northern Dancer at Laurel. His three stakes placings that season included a third in the Grade 3 Federico Tesio.

The highlight of Ameri Valay's racing career came at ages 5 and 6, with back-to-back victories in the Grade 3 John B. Campbell Handicap, scoring by more than four lengths in each running. The Bassfords had plans to race Ameri Valay one more year, at age 7, in hopes that their stable star would surpass $1 million in earnings, but terrible winter weather early in 1996 curtailed Ameri Valay's training, and they decided to retire him.

Although he got a late jump on the breeding season, Ameri Valay sired 20 foals in his first crop. Strongly supported by the Bassfords, he has a total of 73 foals from his first four crops, with his oldest foals now 5.

The exploits of Magic Weisner on the classic trail came a little too late to boost interest in Ameri Valay this year. Shamrock Farms manager Jim Steele said that the powerfully built 13-year-old stallion "did not have enough mares this year" and is deserving of a closer look.

"Ameri Valay is a blue-collar horse," Steele said. "He had tremendous speed and was a tremendous racehorse. He's a good stallion for the money."

Nancy Alberts took her mare Jazema to Ameri Valay twice and got Magic Weisner and his brother, stakes-placed Deliver Hope. Jazema was bred back to Ameri Valay, for the same $2,500 stud fee, on May 16, two days before this year's Preakness.