08/06/2003 11:00PM

Strong Hope's talent shines


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The game victory of Strong Hope in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga has further illuminated the colt's sire, Grand Slam, as one of the bright young hopes of American breeding. In addition, the colt's successes - five victories from six starts - have added luster to the production record of his unraced dam, the Deputy Minister mare Shining Through, and will make her other progeny all the more valuable.

This naturally brings a quiet smile to the face of Strong Hope's co-breeder Tom Evans, who foaled and raised the colt at his Trackside Farm outside Versailles, Ky.

When he brought the yearling Strong Hope to the 2001 Saratoga sale, Evans said, "We knew we were bringing a top physical horse to the sale. He sold on the last night of the sale, and as we got closer to that point, enough of the right people had looked at him and come back for a second look that I was confident he would bring close to $1 million. When you look back at his catalog page as it was then, it seems like a lot of money, but that indicates just how good a physical horse he is. Now, he's making his own pedigree."

Evans and partners sold Strong Hope for $1.7 million to Eugene Melnyk. The dark brown colt was typical of the better specimens by Grand Slam and his sire, Gone West, in that the yearling had a good-sized frame, stood over a bit of ground, and possessed the strength and presence of a top athlete.

Strong Hope also benefited by having no problems of any significance. The poster colt for good X-rays, Strong Hope is a half-brother to one of the soundest racehorses in Europe, the high-class sprinter Bahamian Pirate, by Housebuster.

"As I recall," Evans said, "Bahamian Pirate won a Group 3 about a week after the sale, and in addition to Strong Hope improving his own pedigree, one of the great things about this family is that Bahamian Pirate has been a tough and consistent horse."

Despite the success of Strong Hope's half-brother at sprinting distances, trainer Todd Pletcher did not push Strong Hope in an attempt to make him show his ability too early. Pletcher has noted that Strong Hope was a big yearling and has grown a lot, filling out and strengthening well. Pletcher and Melnyk are reaping the rewards of patience, and this is an added benefit that Evans recognized, saying that "not only was Strong Hope a strong sale yearling, but he also went into a good program and has really benefited from it."

Strong Hope's dam, Shining Through, was bred by the Foxfield Farm of Carl Icahn, but the big chestnut mare was unraced due to a training accident. A foal of 1989, Shining Through came through the Foxfield program just as the breeding industry sank into a tailspin, and Icahn decided to pare down his operation to create a leaner and altogether smaller Foxfield.

The results were a boon to smaller breeders, as the horses sold by Foxfield included champion Silverbulletday (sold in utero), Grade 1 winner Sunshine Street, and the dams of numerous stakes winners. One of the mares sold out of the Foxfield broodmare band was Shining Through.

Icahn's decision to cull the mare didn't look like a bad idea early on, as two of the mare's first four foals died before being named. The mare's second foal was one of the survivors, however. He is Bahamian Pirate, who was sold to Lucayan Stud and sent to race in England, where the sturdy chestnut gelding has raced 53 times in the past six years.

A full brother to Strong Hope was sold to Bob and Beverly Lewis at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale, bringing $430,000. The Lewises have named the colt Houndstooth, and he has not started yet. Shining Through also has a yearling colt by Old Trieste that is entered in the select sessions of the Keeneland September yearling sale. Evans said, "Obviously the timing is pretty good, and Shining Through has consistently had good foals. And this is a good one as well." Currently, Shining Through is in foal to Mr. Greeley.

Shining Through is out of the Halo mare Solar, a stakes-winning daughter of the Buckpasser mare Sex Appeal, who herself is the dam of two champions in El Gran Senor and Try My Best. Sex Appeal was the first foal of Best in Show, and this is a deep family of the highest international significance.