12/03/2003 1:00AM

Stravinsky gets top freshman marks


LAS VEGAS - As the year draws to a close, it's time to look at the 2003 freshman sires. Stravinsky, a champion sprinter at 3 in England in 1999, appears headed for top honors, but there is a curious twist to his story.

Past freshman stallion leaders, such as Cherokee Run, End Sweep, and last year's leader, Distorted Humor, were based in this country, and the majority of their offspring here. While Stravinsky has sired 27 winners, more than any other first-crop stallion based in the United States, this number is a reflection of his winners worldwide, with the overwhelming majority on turf.

Stravinsky stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., and has a pedigree very familiar to American breeders. By Nureyev, one of Northern Dancer's classiest champions and most successful stallions, Stravinsky inherited Nureyev's brilliance, winning two Group 1 sprints, the July Cup (six furlongs) and Nunthorpe Stakes (five furlongs). Bred in the United States, Stravinsky was sent to Europe because of his grass pedigree and was imported back to this country for his stud career.

Stravinsky is out of Fire the Groom (Blushing Groom), a champion older female in France. Fire the Groom also won the Beverly D. Stakes, Wilshire Handicap, Santa Anita Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap, and Aqueduct Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap. Fire the Groom's second dam is a Kentucky Oaks winner, Native Street, one of the best fillies from the extraordinary foal crop of 1963, which included a co-Horse of the Year, Moccasin, and champion Lady Pitt. Stakes winners from this crop who became prominent broodmares include Natashka, Priceless Gem, Destro, Marking Time, My Boss Lady, Spearfish, Lady Dulcinea, Holly-O, Justakiss, Prides Profile, Silver Bright, and Ole Liz. Native Street produced two stakes winners, the full brothers Royal and Regal, and Regal and Royal (Vaguely Noble) and her non-stakes-winning daughters went on to produce dozens of stakes winners.

Stravinsky has had 64 juvenile starters (including both the Northern and Southern hemispheres), but only 14 2-year-olds raced in the United States, and six have won. Of these six winners, five were on turf, including Cool Conductor (third in last Saturday's Mecke Stakes on grass), Solar Fire (third in the Sorrento Stakes), Speedy Sonata (second in the Kimberlite Pipe Stakes), and maiden winners Cousineau and Hot Prospect.

Stravinsky's most accomplished juveniles were Balmont, winner of the Gimcrack Stakes and second in the Middle Park Stakes, and Venables, winner of the Shadwell Stud Rose Bowl Stakes. Worldwide, Stravinsky has sired one graded stakes winner, four non-graded stakes winners, and seven stakes-placed runners.

Right behind Stravinsky are Victory Gallop, Doneraile Court, Forestry, and Old Trieste. Victory Gallop has been particularly impressive, since his offspring were expected to mature late and be best going a distance at 3. His first crop includes stakes winners Victory U. S. A. and Galloping Gal. Doneraile Court is the sire of the Norfolk Stakes winner, Ruler's Court, while Forestry's top runner is Smokey Glacken, half-sister to champion sprinter and successful stallion, Smoke Glacken. Old Trieste died earlier this year at age 8 before his runners ever set foot on a racetrack. His leading earner is Minister Eric, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Action This Day. The premature death of Old Trieste is a major loss, as his 2-year-olds performed beyond expectations on all surfaces.

Because of the heroics of his son, Hopeful Stakes winner, Silver Wagon, Wagon Limit also got off to a fast start as well and he has 5 winners from only 10 runners.

Other freshman stallions whose first crop looked good are Stormin Fever (one of 11 sons of Storm Cat who appear on the list of leading 2003 first-crop sires), the late Canadian champion, Archers Bay, champion Silver Charm, Family Calling, and Malibu Moon.

Silver Charm was a pleasant surprise. His runners were also expected to have more of an impact at age 3, but he sired 12 winners from 28 starters. Family Calling, who had 16 winners from 40 starters, was the year's sleeper. Relatively unknown, Family Calling won a minor stakes at age 4 but has a high-class Christiana Stable pedigree (Mr. Prospector-Sense of Unity, by Northern Dancer) that warranted a stud career. Malibu Moon, who raced only twice at 2, winning once and placing once, also is a surprise on this list. By A.P. Indy, Malibu Moon is out of a group 1 winner, Macoumba (Mr. Prospector), a half-sister to stakes winners Septieme Ciel, Maxigroom, Balchaia, and Manureva. Malibu Moon has 11 winners from 17 starters, including his leading earner, stakes winner Perfect Moon.

Tactical Cat and Exploit, two sons of Storm Cat, also got off to good starts at stud. Tactical Cat is the sire of stakes winner Fashion Girl, and Exploit's lone stakes winner is Marina de Chavon.

As a son of a champion sprinter and speed influence, Phone Trick, Mazel Trick has sired runners who were expected to do well at 2, and he has not disappointed. Two sires who should ascend the stallion ranks are the obscure Porto Foricos and Sea of Secrets.

From a small crop of only 11 foals, Porto Foricos (Mr. Prospector) sired stakes winner My Vintage Port from three starters. Sea of Secrets (Storm Cat) is the sire of 10 winners from 23 starters, with two stakes winners.

Time Bandit (Time for a Change), a stakes winner at 2 for D. Wayne Lukas, looks to have a big future. Standing at Camelot Farm in Louisiana, Time Bandit is the sire of five winners from only nine starters, with two stakes winners, Next Bandit and Stolen Time. Time Bandit's second dam is a Canadian Horse of the Year and U.S. champion, Fanfreluche. Canadian broodmare of the year in 1978, Fanfreluche produced five stakes winners, including La Voyageuse, the dam of Time Bandit.