06/14/2002 12:00AM

Sitting pretty with dam of Plate favorite

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It was less than two years ago that George Tharrenos and his wife, Helen, decided to buy some farmland and take their chances at breeding their own Thoroughbreds.

George Tharrenos, who is in the business of electric heating products, has owned claiming horses since he was 16 and comes from a family of horse owners.

But never did Tharrenos believe that one of the first mares he would purchase would be the dam of the favorite for the June 23 Queen's Plate.

Lady Gretchen, who couldn't be sold for $5,000 at a breeding stock sale in 2000 at the age of 16, was purchased privately by Tharrenos from Hill 'n' Dale Farms that same year.

Her 3-year-old son, Shaws Creek, the Plate Trial winner on June 1, will likely be the favorite for the 1 1/4-mile Plate at Woodbine.

"Lady Gretchen has been kind of a big surprise for me and my wife," said Tharrenos, whose horses race under the name of G. T. Heat Stables.

Tharrenos had raced a son of Lady Gretchen, G.T.'s Groove, and had heard, through agent Richard Hogan, that the mare was for sale.

Lady Gretchen, a daughter of the Buckpasser stallion Akureyri, was an accomplished runner on the track, winning 7 of 18 starts, including a five-length score in the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs in 1987.

A $13,500 yearling purchase, Lady Gretchen went through four more auctions as a broodmare before going unsold for $5,000 at the 2000 Fasig-Tipton December sale.

"I paid considerably more than that," said Tharrenos, who bought the mare in foal to the A.P. Indy stallion Accelerator. "We went out of our way to buy her."

About the time that Lady Gretchen foaled a filly for Tharrenos, the mare's sixth foal (her previous five are all winners), Shaws Creek, was embarking on a stakes-winning 2-year-old campaign.

Shaws Creek, a son of Tejano Run, has won two Plate preps this year and has all the credentials to be the next Plate champion.

This spring, Lady Gretchen foaled an Accelerator colt and she's been bred back to Tejano Run.

The Tharrenos family has built up its broodmare band to six and is building barns and putting up fencing on its 35 acres in King City, Ontario. Already, the family has received calls of interest about Lady Gretchen and her offspring.

"We're under no pressure to sell anything before the Plate," said Tharrenos. "I'm already happy no matter what Shaws Creek does [in the Plate]. I feel sort of blessed. The small guy does have a chance."

* The silent auction at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's annual awards dinner on June 7 raised about $45,000 for LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society. It was the third year that the CTHS has donated its proceeds from the auction to LongRun.