02/25/2005 12:00AM

Smokester's rise came suddenly

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Smokester, who died last Monday from a heart attack, was a stallion whose popularity grew after a modest start to his career in the early-1990's.

Initially, Smokester was supported almost exclusively by owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan. Interest became more widespread after the Smokester colt Free House won the 1997 Santa Anita Derby en route to the first of two consecutive titles as the California-bred horse of the year.

Smokester later stood to books of more than 100 mares, according to Steve Sahadi, who operates Cardiff Stud Farm in Creston, where Smokester stood throughout his stud career.

Last year, according to Jockey Club statistics, Smokester was bred to 55 mares.

Sahadi described Smokester's death as "a big loss."

"He would have done a minimum of what he did last year and probably a little better," he said.

Smokester has sired the winners of more than $13.6 million, of which Free House accounted for $3,178,971. During the current Santa Anita meeting, Smokester was represented by Areyoutalkintome, the winner of the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap.

"You get a horse like [Free House], it really perked people's ears up and put him up on the map," Sahadi said.

Sahadi admits he did little more than host Smokester in the early years of his stallion career, but quickly grew to admire him.

"It was really just John and Trudy for the first four or five years," he said. "I always joked that he was sitting there standing on my farm and I didn't breed a mare to him. His babies looked great with the color and strength, but I didn't breed a mare to him until everybody else did."

McCaffery and Toffan campaigned Smokester, who won 2 of 4 starts. Toffan said: "We had some fillies here in California and we decided to send them to Smokester. After he sired Free House, we thought, 'If he can sire one, he can throw another one.'"

Smokester never sired another Free House, but he is the sire of Ninebanks, the winner of the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile in 2003, and Bagshot, the winner of the 1999 California Cup Classic.

Free House, the leading freshman stallion in California in 2003, died last year while standing at stud at Vessels Stallion Farm.

Cardiff is left with four stallions on its roster - Dixie Dot Com, Six Below, Skimming, and Spinelessjellyfish. Sahadi said Skimming is expected to be bred to more than 100 mares.

Broodmare's value could jump

A fractured sesamoid ended the racing career of Lady Danish at Hollywood Park on Dec. 9. She was vanned off after finishing second in a maiden race, the 10th loss in a career that ended with earnings of $25,862.

Her new career as a broodmare began last week, when she was bred to top stallion In Excess.

Now, a waiting game starts for co-owner and trainer Robert Bean.

Bean owns Lady Danish with Tamara Peloso. Lady Danish, by Bonus Money, is a half-sister to Texcess, the champion California-bred 2-year-old male of 2004. Further success by Texcess would substantially raise the value of Lady Danish and any resulting foals.

Bean will get an early answer on Lady Danish's value when her half-brother, a full brother to Texcess, is offered at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

"It will be interesting to see how his full brother sells," Bean said.

Bean bought Lady Danish for $15,000 as a 2-year-old at the Barretts January mixed sale in 2003. After suffering the injury, Lady Danish was sent to Shields Thoroughbreds in the Santa Ynez Valley. She was recently sent to Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall to be bred to In Excess.

As for Texcess, he is based at Hollywood Park with trainer Paul Aguirre, who co-owns the gelding with Omar Aldabbagh. Texcess is being pointed for the Louisiana Derby on March 12.