12/10/2004 12:00AM

Stakes wins stacking up for Successful Appeal

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - After a tremendously successful weekend, with two stakes winners and another stakes-placed runner, Successful Appeal has moved back into the lead among this year's freshmen sires. The stallion's two richest scores over the weekend came at Delta Downs, when his daughter Punch Appeal won the $250,000 Delta Princess Stakes at a mile and his son Closing Argument was second in the $1 million Delta Jackpot at 1 1/16 miles. The next day, Successfully Sweet won the East View Stakes at Aqueduct, also at 1 1/16 miles.

Recently relocated from Florida to stand at Walmac Farm in Lexington, Successful Appeal has been in a heated battle with the year's other top freshmen sires - former Florida stallion Yes It's True (now at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky), Fusaichi Pegasus, and Giant's Causeway.

That quartet stands atop the freshman list at the moment, each with progeny earnings of more than $1 million this season, and they appear likely to maintain their rankings. The only stallion with greater 2-year-old earnings than Successful Appeal in 2004 is the year's overall leading juvenile sire, Storm Cat.

Of the freshman group above, Successful Appeal had the earliest successes, with Lunarpal winning three stakes at Churchill Downs, including the Bashford Manor and Kentucky Breeders' Cup. Both are Grade 3 events. Several other winners, and then more stakes winners, gave Successful Appeal a ticket to Kentucky from his initial base at Hartley/DeRenzo-Walmac South outside Ocala, Fla.

In acquiring the horse as a stallion prospect in 1999, Walmac's joint owner, John T.L. Jones III, noted that "Starview Stables owned Successful Appeal, [John] Kimmel trained him, and Michael Levy brought us the deal, organized it, and was very instrumental in us buying part of the horse."

This occurred during Successful Appeal's 3-year-old season, around the time of the Breeders' Cup, Jones recalled. In addition to buying into Successful Appeal as a racehorse, the Walmac group "bought out the owners' breeding rights completely," Jones said. He said there were also some "escalator clauses that went into effect on the price when he came back and won the Vanderbilt the next year."

Successful Appeal was retired near the end of his 4-year-old season. Bill Heiligbrodt, Lakland Farm, Johns Martin, Hartley/DeRenzo, John Stuart, and Craig Bandoroff all had interests in him, Jones said.

"Except for Heiligbrodt, several of the ownership didn't breed many mares in Florida," Jones said, which depressed the size of the stallion's second and third books.

Earlier this year, however, trainers began to see evidence of significant talent in the youngsters by Successful Appeal, Jones said.

"Heiligbrodt was the first to call up and say that these horses were special," he said.

With Lunarpal winning at Churchill and Punch Appeal on her way to winning five stakes this year, breeders lined up to use Successful Appeal, with nearly 40 mares being added to the stallion's book after May 1.

The continuing success of his runners through the summer and fall led to Successful Appeal being transferred to stand at Walmac in Kentucky. Jones said that the "plan all along was for Walmac South to develop stallions that were good enough to come up here."

Despite the early achievements of the stallion's progeny, there were questions whether the early-maturing stock would be able to train on and race around two turns.

The results of the past weekend seem to answer that question in the affirmative.

Successful Appeal himself was a talented 2-year-old, winning the Cowdin, and he matured to be even better at 3, winning the Withers and Kentucky Cup Sprint Handicap. At 4, he won the A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, closing his career with 8 victories from 22 starts and earnings of $654,681.

In racing class, he was quite similar to his sire, Valid Appeal, a talented son of In Reality who won the Dwyer, defeating champion Wajima. Due to the results of his racing record and the greater accomplishments of his full sister champion Desert Vixen, Valid Appeal went to stud in Florida at Mockingbird Farm, where he met with rather unexpected success that remained consistently high throughout his career.

In a contrast of physical types, however, Successful Appeal is considerably different from his small and rather refined sire. Successful Appeal is a bigger and more rugged individual, with several elements in his makeup showing the influence of his fourth-generation ancestor Mr. Prospector.

It is interesting but possibly of little consequence that three of Successful Appeal's stakes winners are out of mares from the Mr. Prospector line, with Punch Appeal from a Two Punch mare, Lunarpal out of a Quiet American mare, and Closing Argument out of one by Mr. Greeley.