07/18/2003 12:00AM

Success without chasing speed


Peter Vegso is a rarity among Florida breeders. He breeds to race and says he's uncomfortable breeding for the 2-year-old market. This discomfort in breeding for a market that emphasizes speed has culminated in Vegso's breeding the full brothers Orchard Park and Silver Tree, the 2002 and 2003 winners, respectively, of the $500,000 Virginia Derby, run at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Colonial Downs.

Vegso is also responsible for another winner - his company is publishing the anthology "Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul."

"The horse business is a wonderful business," Vegso reflected. "I went to Woodbine years ago with friends when I lived in Toronto and got hooked.

"When I relocated with my friend and business partner Gary Seidler to south Florida, I took my interest in horse racing with me. Gary and I began by buying pieces of racehorses in syndicates. One of these was the Five Star Stable partnerships packaged by the attorney Jeff Perlow. Gary and I wound up owning a hoof, maybe it was the tail, of a filly. Her name was Express Star and she became a multiple stakes winner, and we were in the game for life!"

From owning bits and pieces of Thoroughbreds, Vegso and Seidler moved to patronizing the 2-year-old sales and were successful from the beginning. When it came time to retire fillies and mares owned by Vegso or the partnerships, the prospective broodmares had to go somewhere. Vegso started out boarding the breeding stock, and it was only a matter of time before he established a permanent operation.

"I found property that suited our needs just south of Ocala," he said, "and I was very fortunate in finding Chuck Patton to manage the place."

Vegso Racing Stable is a 130-acre complex that includes a five-furlong training track and a swimming facility. Vegso keeps 22 broodmares on the premises. Depending on the mares and their bloodlines, Vegso breeds some in Florida and the rest in Kentucky.

It was at the Keeneland fall mixed sales in 1998 that Vegso spent $200,000 to buy Blue Begum, a daughter of With Approval in foal to Hennessy. The following year, she foaled Orchard Park. Patton liked the new foal - liked him so much that he recommended that the mare be shipped back to Kentucky and returned to Hennessy.

That mating produced the full brother Silver Tree, who, like Orchard Park, went to Bill Mott and to a successful run in the Virginia Derby. Before she died the next year, Blue Begum also produced a colt by Silver Deputy and another by War Chant.

Vegso and family are hands-on when it comes to the nuances of Thoroughbred breeding. Vegso seeks advice on breeding from pedigree pundits as well as employing his own intuition. He also relies upon Patton in matters of conformation and the physical suitability of potential stallions. It's teamwork, Vegso will tell you.

Vegso Racing Stable has two dozen horses in training with four or five trainers. The business plan is to place the horses on circuits where they are deemed to be best suited and with trainers who pretty much stay on those circuits.