03/29/2002 12:00AM

Take a Memo: Grey Memo, in fact

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - The influence of California-breds has gone global. Last Saturday, it reached 8,000 miles, all the way to Nad Al Sheba racetrack in Dubai.

Minutes after California-bred Grey Memo (by Memo) crushed an international field in the $1 million Godolphin Mile, someone whispered to Grey Memo's owner-breeder Pat Thompson: "We know all about Memo in California."

Said Thompson: "Now everybody else will know, too."

On the world stage that was the Dubai World Cup, Grey Memo delivered a crushing 3 1/2-length win in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, becoming the second Cal-bred to win a World Cup race (Big Jag won the 2000 Golden Shaheen).

The victory for Thompson, and co-owners Ron Manzani and Russ Sarno, was a notable achievement for the California sire Memo. Grey Memo benefited from a veteran support team as long as the Nad Al Sheba stretch. It includes 80-year-old trainer Warren Stute; jockey Gary Stevens; Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza; and exercise rider Alan Patterson, to name a few.

Neither Grey Memo, nor his sire Memo, are flashes in the pan. Grey Memo had already won six races and more than $500,000 from 32 starts when he arrived in Dubai. He was the leading money earner of the 15-year-old sire Memo, whose first four crops to race include stakes winners La Feminn, Guillermo, Elegant Fellow, and Memo Guapo, a Group 3 winner in Chile.

Grey Memo's durability was admirable, but few considered him world-class. Hollywood Park's racing secretary believed otherwise. Panza, North American liaison for Dubai World Cup, quietly nominated Grey Memo to the Godolphin Mile at the no-fee entry stage in November. Panza believed Nad Al Sheba's one-turn mile and three-furlong stretch would suit Grey Memo's style. He asked Stute to at least consider the race.

Stute shared the idea with Thompson, Manzani, and Sarno. They liked it. Grey Memo got a three-month freshening, finished third in his March 3 comeback, and packed his bags. There are not many places where a late-running Cal-bred has a legitimate shot at $1 million, yet Stute was unconvinced. Said Thompson: "When we said to Warren we wanted to go, he said 'ah, gee,' but I'm glad we talked him into it."

After recovering from shipping fever, Grey Memo began galloping strongly at Nad Al Sheba under exercise rider Patterson. He entered the starting gate with a realistic chance for at least a piece of the purse. As Grey Memo left the paddock on the warm evening, Patterson sensed something important was about to happen. "Look at him, he's so cool," Patterson said, "and he's been [working] so good down the lane."

Grey Memo ran even better than he had trained. Under a perfect ride from Stevens, Grey Memo trailed into the lane, angled outside, and stormed to the most impressive victory of his career. He had never won by more than 1 1/4 lengths, but Grey Memo rolled by

3 1/2. Afterward, Stute deflected credit.

"Martin Panza's the reason we're here," Stute said. "[Panza] said Grey Memo would like this track, and he was right. It's a whole new world over here."

Conquering new frontiers is nothing new for Grey Memo's sire, Memo. A son of popular Chilean stallion Mocito Guapo, and a champion in Chile, Memo was sent to America in 1992 for a career with Richard Mandella. He became a Grade 2 winner at seven furlongs and 1 1/8 miles, and retired in late 1994 having won the Triple Bend at Hollywood Park, Commonwealth at Keeneland, and San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita.

When Memo retired, Pat Thompson and her late husband, Jim, were asked to stand Memo at their Ridgeley Farm. "Jim said we were going to sink or swim with this horse, and that's what we did," Pat Thompson said. In 1995, Memo stood his first season at Ridgeley, located in Hemet, 70 miles southeast of Santa Anita. Memo was an immediate hit, getting stakes runners La Feminn, Guillermo, and Memoranda in his first crop.

The stallion shipped to Chile that summer, to the farm of his owners Teresa and Francisco Cortez. He stood the 1995 breeding season in Chile. From that crop, he produced Group 3 winner Memo Guapo. He returned to the U.S., where he has been booked to an average of 80 mares each season.

Describing Memo, who stands for $8,500, Thompson said he has "a short back, lots of power in his hind quarters, short cannon bone, and medium size." He stands 16 hands, and is "well balanced and correct." Most offspring of Memo are bays with white on their face and white hind feet, but Grey Memo was cut from a different mold. He is the only gray by Memo who has raced. A gray 1998 foal, a full sister to Grey Memo, died as a weanling.

Co-owners Manzani and Sarno were not original owners of Grey Memo, but when their Memo foal died, Thompson offered partial ownership in Grey Memo, whose dam did not hit the board in four starts.

Little did anyone know what Grey Memo would turn out to be - a gray California-bred international star.