05/06/2004 11:00PM

Smarty's dam becomes hot property overnight


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Brent Fernung looks over the broodmare band at CloverLeaf Farms in Reddick, Fla., he sees a lot of potential. That's especially true of one mare, I'll Get Along, who became the dam of a Derby winner last Saturday. Smarty Jones's victory has given I'll Get Along's reputation a big boost, as evidenced by the offers that have poured in to buy the mare since Derby Day.

"We have been getting a lot of calls," said Fernung, who bought the broodmare from Roy and Pat Chapman three years ago on behalf of CloverLeaf owners John and Susan Sykes. "I briefly discussed it with Mr. Sykes, but he's having so much fun with this mare right now, we haven't really made a decision about selling her."

Smarty Jones was the second foal for I'll Get Along, a 12-year-old Smile mare. I'll Get Along has had only one other foal to race. That runner, a Formal Gold filly named Be Happy My Love, won one of eight races last year at 3. With Smarty Jones and a winner from her first two foals, I'll Get Along looks like she could be quite a producer.

At least, that's what Cloverleaf manager Fernung hopes.

I'll Get Along started her broodmare career for the Chapmans, who bred and own Smarty Jones. The Chapmans bought her as a yearling from the Frances Genter stable at the 1993 Keeneland September sale, paying $40,000 on the advice of Robert Camac, their trainer at the time. She became a stakes winner and then a broodmare for their Someday Farm in New Hope, Pa. In 2001, the year I'll Get Along foaled Smarty Jones, the Chapmans sold the majority of their stock.

Fernung selected I'll Get Along from the 2001 Keeneland November sale.

"There are four things I look for in a mare: sire, female family, racing record, and looks," Fernung said. "The most important of those are racing record and looks. If they can't run and look like a donkey, I don't want them."

I'll Get Along, a stakes winner with more than $276,900 in earnings, fit the Cloverleaf bill. Her dam, a Foolish Pleasure mare named Dont Worry Bout Me, was also a stakes winner and a half-sister to three other stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Basie.

Her sire, Smile, was not I'll Get Along's strongest asset, but "that didn't really scare me, either," Fernung said.

When Fernung bought her, the mare was 9 and in foal to Doneraile Court, a Seattle Slew stallion whose first foals were weanlings. Those weanlings arrived at the racetrack as juveniles in 2003 and quickly made Doneraile Court the nation's third-leading sire by progeny earnings. Unfortunately, I'll Get Along's Doneraile Court foal died during foaling in 2002, Fernung said, depriving the farm of a golden opportunity to sell a half-sibling to Smarty Jones by one of the nation's top young sires.

With any luck, the CloverLeaf team will have a chance to make up for that. They have bred the mare back to Elusive Quality this year, meaning she's carrying a full sibling to the Kentucky Derby winner.

"I might not be real bright, but I was smart enough to figure out to breed her back to Elusive Quality," Fernung said. "We've bought Repent and are standing him this season, and she originally was on his list last fall."

That was about the same time that Smarty Jones won his first start, a Nov. 9 maiden race at Philadelphia Park, by 7 3/4 lengths. Fernung really took notice about two weeks later, when the colt came back and won the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes by 15 lengths. He promptly switched I'll Get Along's breeding plans.

"I'm a commercial guy, and I know she'll never be worth more than she is now," Fernung said of I'll Get Along. "If she does sell, it would probably be through public auction, because I don't know how the hell you'd price her right now. Smarty Jones is the kind of horse that might just keep on beating them."

Fernung has been in this spot before. The only other Pennsylvania-bred to win the Derby was Lil E. Tee in 1992, and Fernung owned his dam, Eileen's Moment, when the colt crossed Churchill's finish line in front at 17-1. Fernung had bought Eileen's Moment privately from Lil E. Tee's breeder, Larry Littman, for $25,000. Fernung reaped his Derby windfall quickly, selling Eileen's Moment to Brereton Jones at the 1992 Keeneland November sale for $280,000. Jones sold her two years later for $400,000 to Japan's Shadai Farm, for whom she produced two stakes-placed millionaires by Sunday Silence: Agnes Partner and Agnes Arashi.

Obviously, Fernung has good luck with the dams of Pennsylvania-bred Derby winners.

"I guess maybe now everyone in Pennsylvania will want to sell me a mare," he joked.