03/31/2006 12:00AM

Slight misstep on Straightaway path

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With a City, a Kentucky Derby candidate who lit up the tote board with his come-from-behind victory in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway last week, is, according to his breeder, a "mistake in judgment" who made good.

"He was always a promising colt," said Carl Bowling, owner of Straightaway Farm in Ocala, Fla., who bred With a City and sold him at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales March sale of 2-year-olds in training for $27,000. "The mistake I made was sending him along with my other sales horses to Texas for sales prep and training."

Bowling is no longer sending his 2-year-old sales candidates to his son in Texas. He has concluded that the young horses have trouble reacclimating to Florida and that they lose something when they return for their final pre-sale preparation. He cites With a City's so-so one-furlong workout of 11.20 seconds in last year's March under-tack show as one reason the colt sold for a relatively low price.

"His pedigree was not strong enough to overcome that slow work," Bowling said of With a City, who is by City Zip.

Bowling, 65, is a self-made horseman with no family background in the business of breeding, selling, and racing horses. His first contact with horses was 38 years ago in North Carolina, where his grandfather employed draft horses to haul timber. It was at that time and place where young Bowling developed his affinity for horses. He would later read all the literature and trade publications he could handle until he felt comfortable going into the horse business.

Breeding With a City is far from Bowling's only feat. He pinhooked - bought as a yearling and sold as a juvenile - Eclipse champion Favorite Trick. He also pinhooked the graded stakes winners Flame Thrower, Western Pride, and Forever Silver.

The graded stakes winner and now successful young stallion City Zip, sire of With a City, is one of Bowling's successful pinhooking accomplishments. A Carson City colt, City Zip got Bowling's attention at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sales.

"City Zip had had a check ligament operation," said Bowling. "That didn't bother me, as I felt that with proper care and management the colt could overcome it."

He bought City Zip as a yearling for $9,000 in a year when the average for Carson City yearling colts was just under $60,000. Several months later the colt was zipping around the training track as fast as any of Bowling's sales prospects. He felt he had a good one in City Zip and made up his mind that if the colt did not reach $100,000 at the OBS Calder 2-year-old sale, he would gamble and race him.

"I bid him in for $82,000," said Bowling. "An underbidder came by and said to me that he thought I was too high on the colt. I told him I didn't think so."

City Zip went on to win eight stakes for Bowling and partners, including the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga. When he was retired to stand in New York, he did so with earnings of $818,225.

Bowling has 35 broodmares, give or take a few. His breeding philosophy brooks no exceptions: He will not breed speed to speed or stamina to stamina. The sire and the dam must be opposites of one another when it comes to those two qualities.

This past January Bowling sold the dam of With a City - the With Approval mare With a Princess - at Keeneland.

Like a gambler who sometimes cannot figure out if he is a layer or a player, Bowling deals in all facets of the Thoroughbred business. He breeds, he pinhooks, and he relishes what he calls the "joie de vivre" of racing.

"My homebreds and pinhooks, and I mean all of them, go to the sales, but I am prepared to race if my reserve is not met," he said.

Bowling took back a colt at this year's OBS Calder sale in February for $525,000, and two at the OBS March sale for $550,000 and $150,000. All three are now owned in racing partnerships that involve Bowling.

Asked if he had any younger siblings to With a City, Bowling said that he has a filly by Family Calling (by Mr. Prospector), a Bowling partnership stallion who stood at Hidden Point Farm until recently.

"The filly is for sale," he said, "if the price is right."

* Tampa Bay Downs will once again host Florida Cup Day on Saturday. There are six stakes on the program for Florida-breds. Members of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association should have received an invitation by mail for the event, which includes lunch and refreshments in an area north of the paddock.