08/29/2001 11:00PM

Theatrical bolsters Hill 'n' Dale Farm


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The internationally successful stallion Theatrical was moved from his home base at Diamond A Farm (formerly Brookside Farm) to Hill 'n' Dale Farm last week. The champion turf horse in America in 1987, when he also won the Breeders' Cup Turf, Theatrical is the most proven son of Nureyev at stud, and Theatrical's arrival at Hill 'n' Dale is an important change for the young stallion operation run by the farm's president, John Sikura.

A sire like Theatrical is the backbone of any stallion station. He is the consistent producer of high-quality racers that all breeders search for, and major owners pay large sums for his best prospects to race. Also, having a marquee stallion adds legitimacy, particularly for a newer operation like Hill 'n' Dale.

Sikura said he was "a bit uncomfortable" about Theatrical's transfer because he knows Ted Carr, the general manager for Diamond A who has overseen all of Theatrical's stud career, "and respect him both as a horseman and as a gentleman," but that "once the issue had been raised to me and it was apparent that a change was going to be made, I definitely wanted to stand the horse. He is a top-class animal."

In addition to siring 18 Grade or Group 1 winners, Theatrical also has this year's leading turf mare in Astra, and his sons Startac and Strut the Stage finished one-two in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington two weeks ago.

As Sikura said, "Theatrical is arguably one of the top two or three turf sires in America." So, when the opportunity came to stand the horse, he took it. Also, "I committed to purchasing a 25 percent interest in Theatrical," Sikura said. Outside of the Allen Paulson Living Trust, "Hill 'n' Dale will own more shares than any other individual stakeholder in the horse."

As part of their acquisition plan, Hill 'n' Dale has offered a few shares in Theatrical to others. Sikura said, "The few shares available for resyndication were all sold the same day, and all went to major international breeders. I thought that selling shares to some of the best breeders in the world was in the horse's best interest so that these owners would be sending him top mares annually."

Theatrical has proven that he can sire top racers year after year, and the chance to purchase a significant percentage of such a stallion does not often come around. Therefore, acquiring an interest in the horse not only boosts Hill 'n' Dale's visibility as a stallion farm but also will make the business more attractive as a consignor and as a marketer of other stallions.

"The stallion game is very competitive," Sikura said, "and it takes huge sums of money. Any time you have an elite, proven horse such as Theatrical to fill the gap in a relatively new operation like ours, it's a very special opportunity."

Clearly the chance to stand Theatrical is good for any breeding farm, and "this is another step in our goal to be a major international farm," Sikura said. "We already have a group of broodmares that rivals most farms. And we continue to add to our broodmare base, with mares such as Serena's Tune and Touch Gold's full sister Daijin, as well as strengthening our sales agency in November."

The farm's consignment will include the dam of Squirtle Squirt, the stakes winner Twist Afleet, and other top lots.

"You can always do more, do better, and stallion development is part of that," Sikura said.

Before Theatrical, Hill 'n' Dale was known for acquiring very well-bred young stallions who were a step or two behind the very best of their years. The reason for this is economics and probability. Sikura said, "We want to try to breed the best horses possible, and by offering these sons of great stallions out of impeccable female families, I believe we are maximizing our opportunity for a reasonable cost. We have several very promising young stallions like Dance Brightly [by Mr. Prospector], Mutakddim [by Seeking the Gold], and Accelerator [by A.P. Indy], who only have to get one or two good horses early to become very serious stallions. And when you look at stallions like What a Pleasure, Saint Ballado, and Mr. Prospector, all of whom were good racehorses with exceptional pedigrees, you see that this type of horse can become a very important sire."

These young stallions are not the obvious horses, however. They are not the champions and classic winners of their crops. And Sikura acknowledges that "sometimes it's hard to get people to accept your principles" in using a less-obvious sire "and give them the proper sort of book."

So, to encourage people to breed to these horses, Sikura offers them at very reasonable fees. Before last week, none of the stallions at Hill 'n' Dale was standing for more than $10,000.

Now Sikura has added another dimension to Hill 'n' Dale by standing Theatrical, along with two comrades from the Paulson Estate, Jade Hunter and Geri. Theatrical will stand for $100,000 live foal for 2002, up from $80,000 this year. Jade Hunter will stand for $10,000, and Geri, a Grade 1 winner by Theatrical, will be returning from Japan shortly, and his fee will be announced after his return.