12/31/2004 12:00AM

For Skeedattle, another Talking horse


Some owners have a way of making the racing business look deceptively easy. In Maryland, there is no better example than Skeedattle Associates - a partnership consisting of local businessmen Willie White, Lou Rehak, and Bob Orndorff.

Now in their 14th year of horse ownership, the Skeedattle partners have campaigned a remarkable succession of stakes winners. One of the best was Gin Talking (by Allen's Prospect), a $40,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale purchase who won or placed in seven stakes, earned $348,206, and in 2000 was voted Maryland-bred horse of the year.

Up to then, the Skeedattle partners had little involvement in breeding, but when her racing career was over they decided to keep Gin Talking as a broodmare. And they've come up with another runaway success story in Gin Talking's first foal, Dixie Talking (by Dixieland Band).

Dixie Talking announced herself as a serious talent last Thursday, while scoring by 1 1/4 lengths in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes at Pimlico. The $100,000 event for Maryland-bred fillies, at 1 1/16 miles, was a rapid step up in class and distance for Dixie Talking, who had started only once before - winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race at Pimlico on Dec. 8.

Trained by Robin Graham, Dixie Talking is Skeedattle's first homebred stakes winner, and only the second homebred they've raced.

Dixie Talking's sire and dam each won earlier editions of the Juvenile Championships. Maryland's richest events for 2-year-old statebreds, the Juvenile Championships are each worth $100,000 and are run in two divisions, with one designated for fillies. Gin Talking won the filly event in 1999. Dixie Talking is the first daughter to replicate the feat of her dam since the race was instituted in 1986. Dixieland Band captured the inaugural running of the Maryland Juvenile Championship in 1982.

"We've had high hopes for Dixie Talking all along," said White, who typically serves as spokesman for the Skeedattle group. "Like all of our horses, she got her early education at Frank Smith's Elloree Training Center in South Carolina, and Frank told us she was a good one.

"Frank said this filly could run with anything on the East Coast, which is a strong statement. But we always take Frank's word 100 percent."

Dixie Talking's early training was not all smooth sailing. She contracted equine protozoal myelitis, a common neurological disease that often results in a dragging or spastic gait, after joining Graham's stable in early summer. The Skeedattle partners credit Graham and veterinarian Jimmy Stewart with getting her through the illness, apparently with no lingering ill effects.

Skeedattle has only two horses in training. Their stable star throughout most of 2004 was grass performer Mr O'Brien, who is taking the winter off. Mr O'Brien won the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day and continued to campaign in top company, adding a victory in the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap and finishing out season with a ninth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile.

Meanwhile, the Skeedattle breeding operation is expanding. Gin Talking is one of five broodmares owned by Skeedattle. Boarded at the Tom Bowman family's Roland Farm in Chesapeake City, Md., under the care of Becky Davis, Gin Talking is due to foal to Hennessy early this season. She has a Royal Academy filly who is just turning 2, but does not have a yearling, having slipped to the cover of Dixieland Band for 2004. Gin Talking most likely will be bred back to Dixieland Band.

Dixie Talking may be the new leader of the up-and-coming Maryland-bred 3-year-old filly division, but she is not likely to be named Maryland-bred 2-year-old filly champion of 2004.

Two Maryland-bred fillies boasted more accomplishments during the season, each winning a stakes in unrestricted company: Hear Us Roar, winner of the Maryland Million Lassie and Selima Stakes, and Golden Malibu, winner of the Heavenly Cause and Toddler stakes. Hear Us Roar and Golden Malibu did not start in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship.