01/30/2004 1:00AM

Sword Dance, 20, heads to pasture

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sword Dance, sire of Grade 1 winner Marlin and numerous other stakes winners, has been pensioned at the age of 20.

"His fertility has just been dropping and dropping," said Larry King of Stonehedge Farm in Williston, Fla., which has stood Sword Dance since the early 1990's. "Some specialists have looked at him, and they can't come up with any reason for it. We've done scintigraphy and X-rays, and he seems physically fine. He's not showing any pain, but his sperm count just kept going down. It's been kind of mystifying."

Sword Dance, who is owned by Gilbert Campbell, will live out his days at Stonehedge, King said.

Sword Dance, a Nijinsky II stallion out of the stakes-placed Secretariat mare Rosa Mundi, sired 2003 stakes winners Sir Brian's Sword and Tap Dancer. But his best-known son is Marlin, who won the 1997 Arlington Million and earned more than $2 million. Sword Dance also sired the Grade 2-winning millionaire Blazing Sword and Grade 2 winner Dance for Thee.

Sword Dance's son Blazing Sword, a gelding, is also retired at Stonehedge.

Sword Dance began his brief racing career at age 3 in Ireland, where he was foaled. He won half of his four starts there, winning one of them by five lengths at Phoenix Park. Shipped to the United States the following season, Sword Dance won the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap on the grass in 1988, topping a field that included eventual Breeders' Cup Turf winner Great Communicator and 1987 Irish Derby winner Sir Harry Lewis.

Sword Dance made only seven starts in his two-season career, winning four and finishing out of the top three only once. He earned $200,582.

"His foals are all really big, strong, good-boned horses," King said. "And he was a versatile sire. His horses would run on dirt or grass and go short or long. He's had a lot to do with Mr. Campbell's being among the top breeders in Florida and in the country.

"He'll keep getting good feed and good care here for the rest of his life."

Correggio retires

One of Sword Dance's three-quarter brothers, 1996 champion steeplechaser Correggio, has been retired from racing to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's facility at the Montpelier Estate in Orange, Va.

Correggio, winner of the top-class Breeders' Cup Grand National Steeplechase and the Iroquois Hurdle, was one of the first horses to arrive at the Montpelier farm, a historic property once owned by President James Madison and his wife Dolly. Correggio, a 13-year-old Sadler's Wells gelding headed a group of three former racehorses owner William Lickle donated to the TRF, along with stakes-winning steeplechaser Green Highlander and stakes-placed Mario.

"I am all for the TRF," said Lickle, who lives for much of the year in nearby Delaware but had kept the three horses at a farm in Tennessee. "Now I'll be able to see the horses, and I thought it would be a great idea to showcase a great horse like Correggio at a special place like Montpelier."

Fifty horses will take up residence at Montpelier in the coming months, and many of them will be up for adoption.

* Cape Town, sire of 2003 champion 3-year-old filly Bird Town, will stand for $25,000 in 2004. The stallion, who stands at Overbrook Farm in Lexington, stood for $10,000 in 2003 and initially was advertised for the 2004 breeding season with a $20,000 fee. In addition to Bird Town, Cape Town also sired four juvenile stakes winners in 2003: Capeside Lady, Capejinsky, Race for Glory, and Urban Warrior.