08/30/2001 11:00PM

Third-generation royalty arrives at Bonita


The Boniface family of Bonita Farm in Darlington, Md., is the subject of the critically acclaimed series "Thoroughbred," on the Animal Planet cable TV channel. What could be more exciting than that?

Welcome Mojave Moon. The recent arrival of Bonita's new stallion Mojave Moon - with the looks, pedigree, and racing talent to rival any in the region - is front-page news.

William K. "Billy" Boniface, who oversees the breeding division of the family's Bonita Farm, could not be more pleased with Mojave Moon. A solidly built, 16-hands-plus chestnut, the new stallion would draw the attention of many breeders for the fact that he's a graded stakes-placed son of Mr. Prospector. But he offers much more.

A product of one of the most dynamic families in racing today, 5-year-old Mojave Moon is the first foal out of European champion mare East of the Moon, a half-sister to highly popular stallion Kingmambo. His second dam is the international champion Miesque. Mojave Moon offers a million-dollar pedigree for a $7,500 stud fee.

"He is the kind of horse this region needs," said Boniface. "He should be an attractive alternative to breeders who have been sending their mares to Kentucky."

Mojave Moon is a third-generation homebred for the late Stavros Niarchos's Flaxman Holdings. Niarchos, who made his fortune in shipping, spent millions at the Thoroughbred sales in the 1970's and 1980's to acquire the finest bloodlines available.

Among Niarchos's greatest purchases was Nureyev, for whom he paid $1.3 million as a yearling. Named champion miler at 3 in France from only two starts, Nureyev remains one of the most respected stallions in the world today. Still going strong at the age of 24, he has sired 124 stakes winners. Niarchos considered his greatest runner to be Nureyev's daughter Miesque. A multiple champion in France and England, Miesque made only two starts in the U.S., both resulting in victories in the Breeders' Cup Mile. So spectacular were her triumphs, she was awarded the Eclipse as female turf champion in 1987 and 1988. Miesque retired with earnings of more than $2 million from 16 starts, and counted the 1000 Guineas and Poule d'Essai de Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) among her 10 other victories.

Miesque has been a jewel in the breeding shed as well, producing four stakes winners from seven foals to race. Her first foal was Kingmambo, a classic-winning miler in France. In his first four crops, King Mambo, a son of Mr. Prospector, has sired such runners as champions Lemon Drop Kid and El Condor, and commands a stud fee in excess of $200,000.

East of the Moon (by Private Account) proved nearly as brilliant as her dam after winning the French Oaks and 1000 Guineas and being named highweighted 3-year-old filly in France (from seven to 9 1/2 furlongs). East of the Moon's only other foal to race is the Mr. Prospector filly Moon Driver, winner of the Prix d'Arenberg as a 2-year-old.

Mojave Moon made his debut in France at 2, but after three unsuccessful attempts on the turf, the Niarchos family sent him to the U.S. and a switch of racing surfaces.

Trained by Bobby Frankel, Mojave Moon won his maiden first time out on the main track at Del Mar going a mile and a sixteenth. After a nearly 10-month layoff, he returned with an impressive allowance victory at Hollywood and was immediately sent out for the Grade 2 Californian Stakes, in which he finished third.

The Boniface family acquired an interest in Mojave Moon after the Californian. He made one more start last year, placing second in the Grade 3 Fayette Breeders' Cup Stakes, before a suspensory injury put him on the sidelines. In his only start of this season, he finished off the board and was retired with a record of two victories and two placings in eight starts for earnings of $135,170. He arrived at Bonita Farm on June 1.

Few members of the family have appeared in the sales ring, but last year two made headlines. A half-sister (by Storm Cat) to Mojave Moon sold for $4.4 million at Keeneland September, setting a record for a yearling filly sold at public auction. And Miesque's 3-year-old daughter Myhrr (by Mr. Prospector) brought $4.6 million as a broodmare prospect at Keeneland November.\