11/11/2005 1:00AM

Surprisingly, a first for longtime breeders


First Class Guy was the odds-on favorite when he blew away his rivals to score by 6 1/2 lengths in the colts division of the New Jersey Futurity on Nov. 4 at The Meadowlands. Still, his performance came as a surprise to Charles and Marianne Hesse, his breeder-owners, who race as Char-Mari Stable.

"We thought our other horse would win," said Marianne Hesse, who also owns the race's fourth-place finisher, Skip Along Jet, in partnership with Norma Hess.

The two 2-year-old homebreds started as an entry, trained by Jason Servis. Both juveniles have added significance for the Hesses, since they were sired by Unbridled Jet, a son of Unbridled who campaigned for the Double H Stable of Marianne Hesse and Norma Hess and now stands at Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md. A graded-stakes-placed earner of $255,364, Unbridled Jet is represented this season by his second crop. The Hesses have several breeding rights in Unbridled Jet, who has three stakes horses.

"Both First Class Guy and Skip Along Jet are nice horses," said Charles Hesse, now refusing to play favorites. Skip Along Jet grabbed attention by winning his maiden on Sept. 30 at The Meadowlands in 1:08.62 for six furlongs and posting a 91 Beyer Speed figure.

First Class Guy won his debut Aug. 14 at Monmouth and followed with a second-place finish in Monmouth's Continental Mile Stakes on Sept. 4, but he finished sixth after a rough trip in The Meadowlands's World Appeal Stakes on Oct. 4, his last outing before the New Jersey Futurity.

The Hesses, who live in Leonardo, N.J., and have long ranked among the state's leading breeders and owners, bred First Class Guy from the Vice Regent mare Special Vice, whom they also campaigned as a homebred. Special Vice won the Drew University Stakes and placed second in two other stakes for earnings of $148,501. First Class Guy is Special Vice's seventh foal and first stakes performer. Boarded at Frances Purdey's Greenfields Farm in Colts Neck, N.J., Special Vice, now 18, delivered a full sister to First Class Guy this past spring, but the foal died. Special Vice was not bred in 2005, but may go back to Unbridled Jet in 2006.

Special Vice's family goes back a long way for the Hesses. Her granddam, Southern Special (1971, by Specialmante), was the first horse Charles Hesse purchased when he and his wife were getting into the business in 1972. Southern Special produced nine winners from 11 foals. By far the most impressive was Special Mah, who won or placed in 18 stakes for the Hesses, earning $260,868. Special Mah is the dam of Special Vice.

The Hesses gained major acclaim over the past year with another of Southern Special's descendants, Park Avenue Ball (by Citidancer). Winner of the Grade 2 Belmont Futurity Stakes at 2, Park Avenue Ball took this year's Grade 3 Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes before finishing third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Handicap. Park Avenue Ball is out of Southern Special's daughter Ms. Charity Ball (by Talc).

The Hesses have 10 horses in training. In addition to Servis, they have horses with Todd Pletcher, Jim Ryerson, Chad Hassenflug, and John Hammond (in France). "We try to send them where they will fit," said Charles Hesse. Their 12-member broodmare band is spread among farms in New Jersey, Maryland, and Kentucky, with the majority of their mares foaling in New Jersey.

"It's hard to believe, but we'd never had a horse run in the New Jersey Futurity until this year," said Charles Hesse. "Year after year we'd make our New Jersey foals eligible, and always something would happen. They wouldn't be good enough, or they'd be laid up."