12/28/2007 1:00AM

Smarty Jones among a fabulous class of freshmen

EmailLAS VEGAS – With the new year comes a brand-new group of freshman stallions – sires whose first crop of 2-year-olds will race in 2008. This overview is part 1 of a seven-part series on the 2008 freshman sires, to be serialized alphabetically.

It seems like only yesterday that Smarty Jones was racing’s brightest star, but he now begins a new chapter as a sire with his 2-year-olds hitting the track in 2008. His extraordinary popularity afforded him the chance to get off to a quick start at stud by attracting high-quality mares. Some of the mares from his first book include Alaska Queen, the dam of stakes winners Keats and Fairbanks; Anna Sterz, a full sister to Boundary; Bella Gatto, a half-sister to Williamstown; Belles Lettres, a half-sister to Ms. Eloise, Belle of Amherst, and Belle Nuit; Bells Are Ringing, a half-sister to Unbridled’s Song by Sadler’s Wells; Eishin Bridle, a three-quarter sister to Buddha; Prom Knight, the dam of Volponi; La Paz, the dam of Forest Camp; Hold to Fashion, the dam of Peace Rules; and Heritage of Gold and La Gueriere.

While anticipation is high for Smarty Jones’s babies, this is a particularly deep group of freshman sires which includes Candy Ride, who was undefeated (6 for 6) in a brief but meteoric career; Speightstown, a champion sprinter by Gone West; Chapel Royal, a top-class 2-year-old who should sire precocious runners; Congaree, a top-class miler whose high class enabled him to win at 1 1/4 miles; Cuvee, a son of Carson City who was at his best at age 2; Lion Heart, whose speed made him a classy individual at 2 and 3 and who finished a game second to Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby; Medaglia d’Oro, a Travers winner who was even better at 4; and Peace Rules, who was second in the Travers, third in the Kentucky Derby, and who won the Suburban, Oaklawn and New Orleans handicaps at 4.

The freshman stallion Strong Hope, winner of the Dwyer and Jim Dandy stakes, has a mix of pedigree and performance that should make him a top sire. By Grand Slam (by Gone West), he has the Rasmussen Factor as he is inbred 4x3 to the influential broodmare Sex Appeal. Sex Appeal is not only the dam of the full brothers El Gran Senor, Try My Best, and Compliance (all by Northern Dancer), she is also a half-sister to Blush With Pride, the second dam of Rags to Riches, Jazil and Peeping Fawn, the best 3-year-old filly of 2007 in Europe.

Other first-crop sires are Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup winner Pleasantly Perfect; Belmont and Travers stakes winner Birdstone, who foiled Smarty Jones’s attempt to win the Triple Crown; the 2-year-old champion Action This Day; and Bowman’s Band, Burning Roma, Champali, Hero’s Tribute, Johar, Newfoundland, Perfect Soul, Roaring Fever, Saarland, Scrimshaw, Seattle Fitz, Shamardal, Sir Cherokee, Soto, Strategic Partner, Stroll, Tapit, Ten Most Wanted, Teton Forest, The Cliff’s Edge, and Toccet.

Statebred programs like California and New York will get a big boost from their freshman sires.

Marino Marini, who stands at Rancho San Miguel in California, is a son of Storm Cat who was Group 1-placed in Ireland at age 2 and came to the U.S. late in his 3-year-old year, finishing second in the Malibu Stakes. He also placed at 4 in the Palos Verde and Los Angeles Times handicaps, and the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup. Out of Apple Blossom Handicap winner Halo America, Marino Marini is from the family that produced stakes-winning sprinter and sire Delaware Chief. His runners should win early at 2.

New York has a slew of first-crop stallions, led by Read the Footnotes, who won the Remsen and Nashua stakes at 2 and whose thrilling victory in the 2004 Fountain of Youth Stakes over Second of June was one of that year’s best preps for the Kentucky Derby. By speed influence Smoke Glacken and from the high-class female family of Native Street, Read the Footnotes is a natural to be a good sire of juveniles.

Florida, perennially among the forefront of leading freshman sires, also is well represented in 2008, with Peace Rules, Omega Code, Gimmeawink, Roar of the Tiger, Olmadavor, Sarava, and the very fleet Werblin.

While they may get some runners to win at age 2, the following stallions should produce slow-maturing runners who should be most effective at age 3 and older when they have a chance to stretch out in distance or try turf: Action This Day (Kris S.), Cetewayo (His Majesty), Friends Lake (A.P. Indy), Perfect Soul (Sadler’s Wells), Pleasantly Perfect (Pleasant Colony), Saarland (Unbridled), Sarava (Wild Again), Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway), Strategic Partner (Kris S.), Stroll (Pulpit), Ten Most Wanted (Deputy Commander), and The Cliff’s Edge (Gulch).

I anticipate a banner year for this year’s very deep group of freshman sires, and starting next week I’ll write an analysis on how to bet offspring of these stallions.