03/03/2004 12:00AM

Sunland: Owners' luck turns around


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Go Kitty Go's $50.40 maiden win in Sunday's $100,000 Borderland Derby was by far the biggest career win for the colt's owners, Vernon and Sylvia Hauschild, and made up for many of the disappointments they have had to deal with since buying their first horse.

The Hauschilds retired from their Coal City, Ill., farm and built a home in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico in 2001, turning the family land over to their son, David. During their first full summer there, they began to attend the races at Ruidoso Downs and eventually became one-third partners in a racehorse, but it was an ill-fated venture.

"He broke down and had to be destroyed the first time we ran him," Vernon Hauschild said.

Once they had acquired a taste for the sport, though, the Hauschilds were hooked, and they kept kept at it despite more bad luck.

"Once we went to California and bought one who turned out to have bad knees," Hauschild said, "and another time we bought two Quarter Horse yearlings at the Ruidoso sales. One we gave $25,000 for and he died of colic, though the other did win one race."

After settling on Mac Millar as their trainer, they began to claim a few horses and experienced some success. Last fall, the Hauschilds told Millar to begin looking for a good horse who could race at Sunland.

In December, a van on its way from Toronto to Los Angeles stopped over at Sunland. That's when Millar got his first look at Go Kitty Go, and found out that he might be available for purchase from Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. A good-looking son of Tale of the Cat, Go Kitty Go had two seconds and two thirds in five starts as 2-year-old at Woodbine, with his only off-the-board effort coming in a Grade 2 stakes.

After a price of $100,000 was settled on, the Hauschilds had their horse. Following a few good efforts against allowance company at Sunland, Millar had Go Kitty Go nominated to the Borderland, but also entered him in a maiden race on Friday. After some deliberation, Millar elected to go for the big money, and the risk paid off.

"He is just a really good horse to have around," Millar said. "He has no bad habits to speak of and just loves to train."

With the Borderland behind them, Millar will now focus on the $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 29. "I really believe he is just now coming around," Millar said.

And the Hauschilds are ready to enjoy the ride.