01/23/2009 1:00AM

Stallion shows the long and short of it


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The young sire Whywhywhy answered some questions last weekend with the graded-stakes-winning performances of his sons Nownownow and Ikigai. A young stallion by international success Mr. Greeley, Whywhywhy showed the versatility in his progeny that has been a hallmark of his sire's continuing rise to prominence.

Mr. Greeley has fashioned his success at stud by getting top juveniles, as well as classic winners and top older horses. His son Whywhywhy showed his best form as a juvenile, winning the Futurity Stakes at Belmont and the Sanford at Saratoga, and Whywhywhy got his stud career off the mark well in 2007 when Nownownow won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Sent to race overseas early in his 3-year-old season, Nownownow ran fifth in the Irish 2000 Guineas, which was a creditable effort, but the international transport and change in training seemed to throw him off form somewhat.

Nownownow returned to his best with victory in the nine-furlong San Fernando on Saturday at Santa Anita, not too long after Ikigai won the six-furlong Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park.

Although Whywhywhy was a quick and precocious juvenile, the key to the racing aptitude of his progeny seems to depend on the dam and broodmare sire.

For instance, Nownownow is out of a mare by the top-class French miler Exit to Nowhere (a son of Irish River), and Nownownow's best form has consistently been at eight to nine furlongs.

Nownownow is the sixth foal from his dam, the French-bred mare Here and Now, who also produced Marche de Paix, a winner of the Prix Solitude and twice listed-stakes-placed in France for breeder Ecurie Fabien Ouaki. Here and Now, who died in 2008, has a 3-year-old colt by Horse Chestnut, was barren in 2007, and has a yearling filly by Yonaguska.

In contrast, Ikigai is out of a mare whose best form was sprinting, and her sire, the Halo horse Southern Halo, has made a stud career out of siring high-class horses loaded with speed.

In the Mr. Prospector, Ikigai took the lead after the first quarter and set the pace with fractions of 45.46 and 56.99 seconds to win in 1:09.37 for six furlongs. His Beyer Speed Figure of 113 is the second-highest sprint figure this year.

Bred in Kentucky by Lena Hedberg's Hedberg Hall, Ikigai is the first foal of his dam. Hedberg named the colt and pronounces the name "ee-KEY-guy," meaning "something worth getting up for in the morning" or "something that energizes you," in Japanese, Hedberg said.

Hedberg said she acquired the mare while doing business with bloodstock agent Elizabeth Blythe, "who had bought Contessa Halo as a yearling for a client who was a trainer. He had a couple of mares and retired them after racing and bred them."

When they didn't do well reproductively, the trainer wanted to get rid of them, and Blythe called Hedberg.

Hedberg recalled that one mare aborted in September or October of 2003, "and I paid $2,000 for her. Then four weeks later, Elizabeth called and said, 'There's another mare at the farm, and she's aborted. You can have her if you go get her today.' That mare was Contessa Halo, who had aborted two years in a row."

By the South American sensation Southern Halo, Contessa Halo is the first foal of the Conquistador Cielo mare Queen of Savoy, who had not produced a stakes horse at the time Hedberg got Contessa Halo. Queen of Savoy has since produced stakes winner Clever Idea.

A dam who has not produced a stakes horse is called a blank dam, and it tends to limit the commercial appeal of yearlings. As a result of this and Contessa Halo's two empty years as a producer, Hedberg wanted to limit her financial exposure in mating the mare.

She said, "Elizabeth picked the stallion Whywhywhy for me and suggested that I buy a no-guarantee season at one of the state breeders' association auctions. I bought the no-guarantee season for $3,000, and when I got the little chestnut colt out, it was a good thing."

The young colt was such an appealing young prospect that Hedberg named him Ikigai, and she sold him to Bob Knight at the Keeneland January sale in 2006 for $35,000. Nine months later at the Keeneland September yearling sale, Dapple Bloodstock purchased Ikigai for $400,000.

The September sale price was a huge markup on the yearling, but Hedberg said, "You know, when I got $35,000 for him, I was pretty happy. It was a profit for me, and he was a lovely yearling."

The following year Ikigai sold to trainer John Sadler, agent, for $470,000 at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Hedberg keeps Contessa Halo at Hedberg Hall near Mount Sterling, Ky. The mare was in foal to Flashy Bull for 2009 but "lost that pregnancy a couple of days ago," Hedberg said. The mare was already booked to Speightstown before Ikigai won the Mr. Prospector, the owner said.

The first foals by Whywhywhy include the 4-year-olds Ikigai and Nownownow, and the stallion stands at Gainesway Farm for $7,500 live foal.