12/23/2002 1:00AM

Skimming staying home for stud

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When Steve Sahadi, the operator of Cardiff Stud Farm in Atascadero, Calif., watched Skimming win the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in 2000 and again in 2001, Sahadi figured that Skimming had moved out of California's league as a stallion prospect.

"I thought it was remote that he would retire in California," Sahadi recalls thinking at the time.

But nearly 18 months after his second win in the $1 million Pacific Classic, the 6-year-old Skimming is at Cardiff Stud Farm where his first season as a stallion awaits. He ended his racing career with 8 wins in 20 starts in three countries and earnings of $2,286,601.

Not only was Skimming the king of Del Mar in those two seasons, but he was also a major stakes winner at 5 and, for a while, a contender for the champion older horse title in 2001.

"Frankly, I got lucky to get him," Sahadi said.

Juddmonte Farms bred Skimming in Kentucky and his bloodlines and racing career reflect their worldwide operation. By the great sire Nureyev, Skimming is out of Skimble, a Lyphard mare who was a multiple stakes winner for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bobby Frankel in the mid-1990's.

Racing for Juddmonte, Skimming began his career in France with trainer Andre Fabre, but was winless in four starts at 2 and 3. At the end of his 3-year-old season, he was transferred to Barry Hills in England. Not much was thought of Skimming at the time. He was sent to lowly Dunstall Park in Wolverhampton, England, for a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in January 2000. He won by three lengths, but failed against winners a month later.

Plagued with bleeding problems, Skimming was quickly sent to Frankel.

Once treated with Lasix, Skimming made an immediate impact. He won his debut at Santa Anita and followed with a third in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park. Three races later, he won the San Diego Handicap by an eye-catching eight lengths, affirming his presence in the handicap division.

Skimming followed with a front-running win in the Pacific Classic, finishing two lengths in front of Tiznow, who later won the Breeders' Cup Classic.

In the fall of 2000, Skimming made two more starts, finishing fourth in the Woodward Stakes and seventh in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Following that disappointment, Frankel put Skimming away for the winter.

His 5-year-old campaign didn't start until May 5, 2001, when he finished second in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap. Skimming followed with a victory in the Californian Stakes, a second in the Hollywood Gold Cup, and another double in the San Diego Handicap and Pacific Classic.

During that campaign, he not only showed his affinity for Del Mar, but was able to use his devastating speed successfully with a front-running win in the Californian.

Skimming made his final start in the 2001 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap, finishing second. An attempt at a campaign as a 6-year-old was cut short because of injury.

Sahadi credits breeder Robert Harmon for acting as an intermediary with Juddmonte Farms, which led to Skimming standing at Cardiff. Harmon owns a substantial interest in Skimming, with Cardiff holding a smaller ownership interest. Skimming will stand for $7,500 live foal.

"Once we expressed an interest it was a matter of negotiating the details and they were pretty easy to work out," Sahadi said.

"I'm in the process of syndicating him right now. We decided we'd try to sell up to 20 shares and that's to make sure he has good solid support from the commercial breeders and the people that breed to race in California. That's what I hope to do. I've probably got 15 people that said, 'If you decide to syndicate, put me down for a share.' "

Sahadi said the goal for the 2003 breeding season is a maximum of 108 mares.

"Interest has been very strong," Sahadi said. "It's not only his race record but his family as well. We're not used to getting the sire power, race record, and the family. They usually wind up in Kentucky."

With proven racehorses such as Came Home, Johannesburg, Mizzen Mast (owned by Juddmonte), Orientate, and Street Cry entering stud in Kentucky this winter, Skimming could have gotten lost in the mix, especially as a horse that didn't race in 2002.

"Some very nice horses retired to Kentucky and he would have had competition," Sahadi said. "Out here, he is the biggest fish."

Now, Sahadi has to convince breeders that there is more to Skimming than just a horse who conquered Del Mar for two summers. He is quick to point out that Skimming's front-running style often saw him on the lead through six furlongs in times quicker than 1:10 - and that he could carry that speed 1 1/4 miles.

"Not too many horses will go six furlongs in 1:09 and change and stick around - on any surface," Sahadi said. "He had miler speed."

That quickness may attract breeders who are looking for offspring that can win in sprints at 2 and don't want to wait until longer races to see success.

Sahadi fought the same argument in the mid-1990's with Prized, the winner of the 1989 Breeders' Cup Turf. Prized entered stud in California, but was quickly whisked off to Kentucky following success with his first racing crop in 1995.

"Prized came with seven 2-year-old winners at Hollywood Park that summer and he was a mile and a half horse," Sahadi said.

"If there is a legitimate stallion prospect retired to California, Skimming has very few holes in him. Look at the horses he ran against, and they were legitimate horses.

"Because he ran a mile and quarter and won the most money at a mile and a quarter, I'm not sure that's where he'll end up. Nureyev has had his share of 2-year-old winners."

Ultimately, it will take a mix of both for Skimming to be a success. To keep up with California's leading stallions such as Bertrando, Flying Continental, In Excess, and General Meeting, Skimming must produce his share of sprinters and horses that can compete at classic distances.