10/23/2003 11:00PM

Sprint: Here's a BC horse you could've owned


ARCADIA, Calif. - The offer was $1 million for a rugged gelding who had already started 44 times. Jeffrey Sengara was not in the mood to sell Budroyale. Not then, not ever. "It would be like selling one of my kids," he said.

It was the morning after the 1999 Breeders' Cup. Budroyale's fairy-tale was over. Hours before, in the waning light of Gulfstream Park, Budroyale had pushed Cat Thief to the limit in the $4 million Classic. The gelding Sengara claimed for $50,000 had given a Storm Cat colt all he could handle in the country's richest race, losing at 26-1 by only 1 1/4 lengths.

Turning down a million-dollar offer from a Saudi racing stable was not a difficult decision for Sengara, who runs a lumber company in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It's not about the money, this game is so much deeper," he said.

"What an amazing game, where you can compete on the same day with the wealthiest people in the world, the most influential and famous people in the world, and you can be just a little family from Vancouver. I don't know of another sport where you can do that."

Sengara was right - it is an amazing game - and miracles sometimes do recur. Four years after Budroyale toyed with racing immortality, Sengara and the training team of Ted H. West and his father Ted West have defied the odds. They are returning to the Breeders' Cup with another $50,000 claimer. This time, Georgia-bred gelding Bluesthestandard threatens to give the racing elite a good old-fashioned kick in the pants in the BC Sprint.

Bluesthestandard was never supposed to get this far. "He was [messed] up," his first trainer, Vladimir Cerin, said. "He had a torn suspensory and a broken splint bone. I had him for one day, and sent him right back out. The next thing I know, he was in a race with Susan Weston as owner and trainer."

The race was a $25,000 maiden claimer in spring 2001. Bluesthestandard won, was claimed from Weston, and immediately dropped to $10,000 claiming. People wanted Bluesthestandard, but no one wanted to keep him. His first seven starts, he was claimed four times and had four trainers - Weston, Scott Hansen, Mark Glatt, and Ahmad Salih. The gelding raced longest for Glatt, who trained him to four wins in 2002.

Bluesthestandard had won 10 of 15 races when he entered a $50,000 claiming race Dec. 31, 2002. West and Sengara liked him. "He reminded us of a certain other guy we claimed. He was a warrior," Sengara said "He kept winning races. We had no idea it would turn out the way it did."

Expectations were realistic. "The day we went down there with a $50,000 claim slip, we weren't thinking about the Breeders' Cup," said Ted West Sr. "We thought if he wasn't worth 50, he was worth 40 or 32. There wasn't much downside."

But there was still plenty of upside. Bluesthestandard won by daylight and has not raced for a tag since. Rags to riches, part two. Racing this year for Sengara, Bluesthestandard has won four races, two graded stakes, and $395,975 from nine starts.

Similarities between Budroyale and Bluesthestandard go beyond their claiming background. "Personality-wise and mentally, [Bluesthestandard] is a carbon copy of Budroyale," said West. "They're both very territorial. You don't go in their stall unless you have some business. You don't go in to hug and kiss him, or you're in trouble. You've got to do things their way."

Bluesthestandard's "way" means no gallops. Irritable and obstinate, the only time Bluesthestandard carries a rider is in workouts and races. Otherwise, he is ponied. With no weight on his back, stress on his legs is minimized. He saves it for when he needs it.

A two-length win in a Grade 2 sprint at Santa Anita in late March fueled talk of supplementing to the Breeders' Cup for $90,000. Those plans seemingly were dashed when he finished a dull seventh in a Grade 2 at Del Mar in August. Bluesthestandard came out of the race sick, did not go to the track for two weeks, resumed training in early September, and returned Oct. 5 in the Ancient Title.

He finished third and earned an ordinary 103 Beyer Speed Figure. But he could run faster, and Sengara's wife, Naseema, his high-school sweetheart and mother of their two children - Kevin, 6, and Anita, 4 - encouraged Sengara to supplement. She told him: "I don't care what you say, it's $90,000 . . . you've been given another chance . . . you're supplementing."

Bluesthestandard has obliged with increased speed in recent morning workouts. Win or lose, he will lay it down Saturday.

"These blue-collar types never ever let you down," Sengara said. "I think the true racing fan would say the one quality of a horse that they love the most is his heart. Here's a horse that was running for [$10,000], and he is going to the biggest show on earth.

"It's not about the money Saturday; it's about the lure of magic. I know what Cinderella feels like. It is a fairy-tale."

And what if Bluesthestandard wins?

"I may just float away," Sengara said.