09/27/2004 11:00PM

Sons of Saint Ballado off to fast start

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LAS VEGAS - Every year there are a handful of young freshman stallions who were brilliantly quick as racehorses but who did not achieve stardom, usually due to an injury-shortened career. The first-crop sires making headlines this year include Successful Appeal, Fusaichi Pegasus, Dixie Union, Yes It's True, More Than Ready, and Giant's Causeway, but some lesser-known stallions who had blazing sprinter-miler speed are also transmitting brilliance to their offspring, and their 2-year-olds are returning fat payoffs.

Three of these stallions are by Saint Ballado, who died in 2002 at the relatively young age of 13. A handsome full brother to 2-year-old champion Devil's Bag, Canadian Horse of the Year and U.S. champion older mare Glorious Song (the dam of stakes winners Rahy, Singspiel, and Rakeen), and stakes winner Thaidah, Saint Ballado was saddled with high expectations from the beginning. While Saint Ballado did not have the sheer brilliance of Devil's Bag, he developed into a solid stakes winner at 3, winning the Arlington Classic and Sheridan Stakes.

History has shown that the more talented full brother on the racetrack is not necessarily the better brother at stud. Many who witnessed the exploits of Graustark in 1966 considered him to be the equal of Buckpasser, the 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year that season.

Graustark went on to an accomplished career as a stallion, but his full brother His Majesty, who was a talented stakes winner but not in the same league as Graustark, was just as influential as a stallion, especially as a broodmare sire.

While Devil's Bag did well as a sire, he never achieved the kind of success that was expected of him. Bred to the very best broodmares in his first few books, he was considered a disappointment, although some of his runners developed into better racehorses at 3 and 4, such as Devil His Due, Twilight Agenda, Taiki Shuttle, Buy the Sport, and Region.

Saint Ballado surpassed his more illustrious brother in the breeding shed, despite not getting anywhere near the kind of mares that Devil's Bag received. Saint Ballado's first crop included stakes winner Captain Bodgit, who was second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes.

Three freshman sires by Saint Ballado

While Captain Bodgit turned out to be a big disappointment at stud, three of Saint Ballado's fastest sons - Straight Man, Yankee Victor, and Sweetsouthernsaint - are doing well as freshman sires. Metropolitan Handicap winner Yankee Victor is the best-known of this trio, and he has had seven winners from 19 starters.

Hard-core horseplayers may remember Straight Man and Sweetsouthernsaint, but they are not household names to the average fan.

Straight Man was unraced at 2, but displayed high speed at 3 for trainer Bob Baffert, finishing second in the Malibu Stakes behind Love That Red, while defeating Cat Thief, Five Star Day, Prime Timber, and Desert Hero. He also finished third in the Derby Trial behind Patience Game, and won the Winnercom Handicap at 4, defeating Mula Gula, Patience Game, Kimberlite Pipe, and Yes It's True. Straight Man has 7 winners from 21 starters, and they have inherited their sire's speed.

The least known stallion of this group is Sweetsouthernsaint, who may have been faster than both Straight Man and Yankee Victor, but had his career curtailed by injury. Sweetsouthernsaint was a sensation at 2 in Florida, where he won all three of his starts by open lengths. He won his maiden debut at one mile by eight, an allowance at 1 1/16 miles by five, and the What a Pleasure Stakes, also at 1 1/16 miles, by 4 1/2 lengths.

In his only start at 3, Sweetsouthernsaint finished third behind Cape Town and Comic Strip while injuring himself in the Holy Bull Stakes, and returned at 4 to win one of two races before retiring to stud.

Sweetsouthernsaint has 8 winners from 24 runners, and had a banner weekend on Sept. 25-26, getting two maiden winners and an allowance winner at three different tracks.

Last Saturday at Belmont Park, Better Than Bonds, a 2-year-old colt by Sweetsouthernsaint out of the Vanlandingham mare Jabesh, showed speed from the start in a six-furlong maiden race, and stubbornly held on to win by a neck at 42-1. Aim Straight was favored at 5-2 in a Monmouth Park maiden race at six furlongs on Sunday, and the 2-year-old filly won by two lengths. By Sweetsouthernsaint, she is out of the Alaskan Frost (speed) mare Marla's Magic. Also on Sunday, at Turfway Park, Southern Serenity, a 2-year-old filly out of the Sword Dance mare Finale Hopper, won a one-mile allowance, defeating the 1-2 favorite, Dependability, by 3 3/4 lengths and returning $17.40.

Saint Ballado may be gone, but his legacy lives on through his speedy sons, and there are more to come down the road, such as Saint Liam, the 4-year-old colt who gave Ghostzapper all he could handle in the thrilling Woodward Stakes, missing by a head.