12/10/2004 12:00AM

Small numbers, big results for DiGiulio


The retirement of millionaire mare Brass in Pocket following her win in Woodbine's Classy 'n Smart Stakes on Dec. 1 will not mean the end of one of the most successful breeding stories in the last decade.

The 5-year-old daughter of underrated Ontario sire Domasca Dan will embark on a breeding career for her owner and breeder, Frank DiGiulio Jr., and her first mate will be the exciting Speightstown.

"I feel really lucky to get to him - he had some 400 applications," said DiGiulio, whose late father, Frank Sr., bred Brass in Pocket. "He was a super racehorse; he's by Gone West, a hot sire of sires; and she's so big, I just wanted a stallion that wasn't really large."

DiGiulio, who was nominated as outstanding owner at the 2001 Sovereign Awards, deserves mention as one of 2004's top breeders, especially since he works with much smaller numbers than other top operations like Sam-Son Farm and Adena Springs.

Brass in Pocket, who won 14 of 24 starts and placed in another 5 races, is a nominee for outstanding older mare for the second consecutive year. The Sovereign Awards will be handed out Dec. 17 in Toronto.

Brass in Pocket is a daughter of a mare once raced by Sam-Son: Luck in My Pocket. In 1992, the DiGiulios claimed Luck in My Pocket, a daughter of Lucky North, from Sam-Son and trainer Jim Day for $32,000 out of her second career start. Luck in My Pocket went on to win 4 of 12 career starts and finish third in the 1993 Canadian Oaks to Deputy Jane West. Despite her success, Luck in My Pocket was plagued by injury and illness.

"She fractured a hind leg while racing and came back from that, but then she bowed a tendon," said DiGiulio. "She lost her first foal to Domasca Dan and almost died, and then we couldn't breed her back the next year. She had a couple of bouts with colic, too."

In 1999, Luck in My Pocket produced Brass in Pocket, but when Brass in Pocket was just embarking on her career at age 3, Luck in My Pocket died while foaling a Lord Avie colt, which also died. That's why DiGiulio will keep Brass in Pocket in his broodmare band, a group that has swelled to 12 horses in the last few years.

"I have to cut it down," said DiGiulio, who plans to sell his other filly superstar, Winter Garden, next fall. Winter Garden, originally a yearling purchase, is a finalist for top sprinter and top older filly or mare, and will also be bred to Speightstown in the spring.

DiGiulio, who keeps his horses with Ron Clarkson, Gardiner Farms, and Mike Carroll, was the breeder of several horses who won in 2004 and feels especially proud about Ontario Damsel Stakes winner Velvet Snow, the first foal of his stakes-placed mare Noir Velours.

"Velvet Snow was extra special," said DiGiulio. "Her mother was such a hard knocker. Every time she won it felt really good.

"I bred [Noir Velours] to Subordination, who has been a bit of a disappointment, but he liked grass and Noir Velours liked the grass," he said. "I got a turf-stakes-winning foal who has a heart like her mother. It actually worked!"

Other mares in DiGiulio's band include Winsfordan, a daughter of Domasca Dan who is the dam of Canada's 2001 Horse of the Year, Win City, and stakes winner Domasca Bella, who has a yearling filly by Notebook and a weanling colt by Menifee that DiGiulio is excited about.

"The breeding business is fun," said DiGiulio. "There are lots of downs, but it's really satisfying when you breed a good one."