06/09/2006 12:00AM

Small farm scores a big hit


Royal Descent, a 3-year-old daughter of aging Maryland sire Bishop Northcraft, gave new meaning to the phrase "improved on turf" when she won the Pearl Necklace Stakes on June 3 at Pimlico.

Until May 14, Royal Descent had gone winless in 11 starts - once beaten by nearly 52 lengths. Her form turned around dramatically in her first start on turf, a one-mile maiden special weight at Pimlico, which she captured by a comfortable two-length margin.

Next Mark Kohlheim, her owner, trainer, and breeder, wheeled Royal Descent back in the Pearl Necklace at 1 1/16 miles against statebred 3-year-olds. She reigned supreme in the field of five, scoring by three-quarters of a length over favorite Somethinaboutbetty, a two-time stakes winner who had shipped down from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Bettors who anticipated Royal Descent's emerging talent were rewarded with a $50.60 mutuel payoff. The victory raised her career earnings to $67,000.

Royal Descent is the first stakes winner for Kohlheim, who also stands Bishop Northcraft at his M K Stables, a small farm that he established about 20 years ago in the southern Maryland community of Croom.

Bishop Northcraft, 25, is represented by one earlier stakes winner - the hickory-tough sprinter Wise Dusty, a foal of 1991 who won or placed in 20 stakes, including a victory in the Grade 3 Laurel Dash and a second in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (then a Grade 2 and since raised to Grade 1 status), for earnings of $716,273. Wise Dusty, also a Maryland-bred, was bred and owned by Adrian Merton and trained by Wayne Bailey.

Kohlheim stood Bishop Northcraft at several other Maryland farms before bringing him back to his own farm, where the horse is bred to a few mares each year. Kohlheim bought Bishop Northcraft, a winner of 4 of 39 starts and $32,561, privately at the end of his racing career, having been impressed by his pedigree.

Bishop Northcraft is a son of King's Bishop (by Round Table), who made a strong impact during the 1970's and 1980's while standing in Maryland at Allaire duPont's Woodstock Farm and Windfields Farm. King's Bishop, a great-grandsire of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, had only a brief stud career, however, dying at age 12. He sired Bishop Northcraft from the Northern Dancer mare Lady Northcraft.

Kohlheim, who followed his father Edward Kohlheim into the horse business and continues to work in close association with his father, bought Royal Descent's dam, By Descent (by Linkage), for $6,500 at the 1999 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale.

The 19-year-old By Descent, bred in Kentucky by Cynthia Phipps, has illustrious bloodlines, as her dam, In Perpetuity (by Great Nephew), was a half-sister to champion Shirley Heights, winner of the 1978 English and Irish derbies.

By Descent was moderately accomplished on the racetrack, winning 4 of 25 starts and earning $102,070. She also boasts close-up black type, as a half-sister to two stakes winners in England: Love Everlasting (1998, Pursuit of Love) and Baron Ferdinand (1990, Ferdinand), both of whom are group-placed.

But By Descent's produce record enabled Kohlheim to buy her for what has proved to be a bargain price. Her first three foals, bred by Roy S. Lerman and sired by prominent stallions Pleasant Tap, With Approval, and Apalachee, did little to distinguish themselves on the track.

After joining the small broodmare band at M K Stables, By Descent did not immediately improve her standing as a broodmare. She went five years without producing a foal, several of those years not being bred, until Royal Descent was born in 2003. Kohlheim did not breed By Descent last year, but is considering a late mating with Bishop Northcraft this season.

"To have two nice horses like that, and have them throw a nice baby, is every trainer's dream," said Kohlheim, who is based at Bowie with about a dozen horses owned by himself and his father. "To have bred her and raised her and taught her how to run is a blessing."