09/26/2003 12:00AM

Sleeters celebrate most at initial Jersey Festival

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New Jersey became the latest state to have a special race day to celebrate its homegrown product, the inaugural New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival, which took place Sept. 20 at Monmouth Park.

"The whole thing went even better than we hoped," said Mike Campbell, executive director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey. "The turnout was great [a crowd of 9,100 ontrack]. And the support for each of the races was excellent."

The program comprised 11 races restricted to New Jersey-breds, including three $45,000 stakes. No one came away happier than the Sleeter family, long-successful breeder-owners based in Clementon, N.J.

Carolyn Sleeter bred three winners on the day, all of them sired by home stallion Northern Idol (now deceased) and out of mares by the late Sleeter Farm stallion Better Arbitor. Northern Idol, who died in 1999 but continues to rank among the state's leading sires, was represented by a fourth winner, Idol Gina, bred by Par Three Stables.

Sleeter homebred Something Smith, racing in the colors of Carolyn Sleeter's husband, Gerald Sleeter, and trained by their son Kevin Sleeter, led all the way to a 2 1/4-length victory in the Friendly Lover Handicap. Odds-on favorite and Grade 3 winner Gators N Bears settled for third.

It was the first stakes win for Something Smith, a 3-year-old colt whose dam, Summer Semester, belongs to one of the Sleeters' most productive families. Summer Semester, a full sister to stakes winners Fall Semester (earnings of $252,542) and Best Birthday, produced as her first foal multiple stakes winner Summer Swing ($331,182).

The Sleeters, who have been in the horse business since 1967, keep only four broodmares of their own. But Sleeter Farm's broodmare band was well represented on New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival Day. Gloat, a 5-year-old full brother to the Sleeters' top New Jersey race mare Eleven North (out of Image's Image) won the first race on the card. Gloat currently races for owner Warren Chandler and trainer Ramon Martin.

Eastern Gale, a 3-year-old filly claimed by owner-trainer Kathleen DeMasi for $20,000 in her most recent start, on Sept. 7 at Monmouth, completed the Sleeter-bred three-bagger, winning the eighth race, an allowance.

The two other stakes each went to runners bred by long-established New Jersey horse people.

Vow prevailed by a half-length to win the Slady Castle Handicap for owner Mike Gill and trainer Nick Canani. Claimed by those connections for $40,000 on June 14 at Monmouth, Vow, a 5-year-old horse by Rahy, was bred by Joseph and William Stavola, proprietors of Middletown Stables in Colts Neck, N.J., from their stakes-winning homebred mare, Missy Slew (by Seattle Slew).

Missy Slew is a daughter of one of most distinguished broodmares ever to reside in New Jersey - Great Lady M. (by Icecapade). The Stavolas purchased Great Lady M. for $2.7 million (with Missy Slew in utero) at the 1984 Keeneland November sale, when her multiple Grade 1-winning daughter Lady's Secret was just beginning to prove her worth at 2. Lady's Secret was Horse of the Year in 1986.

The Stavolas sold Vow for $95,000 at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sale.

The William A. Purdey Handicap, named for the late Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey president who owned the illustrious Greenfields farm, went to the 3-year-old Powers Prospect. A daughter of Allen's Prospect-Power's Orphan, by Magesterial, Powers Prospect set every fraction en route to a 5 1/4-length score. Bred by the late New Jersey breeder Robert L. Edwards (who bred 2001 New Jersey-bred champion 3-year-old Holiest Punch), she campaigns for D'Arrigo Racing Stable and trainer Cathal Lynch.

Other breeders represented by winners were Mary Hartman, with maiden special weight winner Lord Billy; Donald Lopez, allowance winner Banshee Brad; Helga Nemeth, allowance winner Golden Number; and Alien Farm LLC, 2-year-old maiden special weight first-time starter Barelyinourbodgit.