08/08/2008 12:00AM

Three sisters of Thor's Echo big for small farm


Fast Lane Farms, the breeding operation of horseman Steve Warner, has never been a big outfit.

"We've never had more than three or four mares," said Warner, whose principal business provides feed at Southern California Thoroughbred tracks.

Warner was the breeder of two starters at the 2006 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs - Thor's Echo, who won the Sprint, and Dancing Edie, who finished eighth in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Warner owned a minority share in Dancing Edie at the time, but had sold Thor's Echo. It did not detract from his enthusiasm when Thor's Echo won, or from his sadness when Helen of Troy, the dam of Thor's Echo, was lost to laminitis earlier this summer.

Her death hit Warner hard.

"She was in pretty bad shape, let me tell ya," Warner said. "We tried everything for her."

Helen of Troy, 12, was based at Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., at the time of her death. She produced her final foal in 2007, a filly by Swiss Yodeler who is a full sister to Thor's Echo and will be named Thorellen, Warner said. Helen of Troy was not bred that year because of her health.

Thorellen is one of three full sisters to Thor's Echo owned by Fast Lane Farms, including the 2-year-old Serena's Echo and the 5-year-old Helen's Echo. Those fillies have become the focus of the Fast Lane Farms racing and breeding operation.

Serena's Echo, who has not started, had several workouts at Hollywood Park earlier this year, but none since early June. She has been turned out, Warner said. The mare Helen's Echo was unplaced in her only start, which came at Santa Anita in January 2006. She produced an Unusual Heat colt earlier this year, and has been bred back to that stallion. Unusual Heat is the leading sire in California by progeny earnings.

Thor's Echo, who has won 5 of 22 starts and $2,441,992, is winless in four starts since winning the Grade 1 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel in November 2006, a victory that essentially clinched his title as the champion sprinter that year. In early 2007, Thor's Echo was sold to Zabeel Racing International of Dubai and made two starts in that country, finishing sixth in stakes.

This year, back in the United States for Zabeel and back with trainer Doug O'Neill, Thor's Echo has been fourth in the Grade 2 True North Handicap at Belmont Park on June 7 and fourth in the Grade 2 Alfred Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on July 26.

"Thor's ran a good race the other day," Warner said. "He missed third by a nose up there at Saratoga."

Warner's connection to Thor's Echo is limited to cheerleading and being the recipient of breeders awards, along with his partners Carlton Block, Harry Forman, and Carl Smith. The mating came about five years ago through a conversation that Warner had with trainers Mike and Patricia Harrington, who campaigned Swiss Yodeler in the late 1990s.

Smith, a groom for the Harringtons, had a breeding season to Swiss Yodeler, but did not own a mare. Smith had groomed Swiss Yodeler during his racing career and received the season from Heinz Steinmann, who owns Swiss Yodeler. When Warner heard that Smith was looking for a mare to breed to Swiss Yodeler, he and his partners suggested Helen of Troy.

"It was all through charity and good feelings," Warner said of the mating.

The resulting foal led to a piece of California racing history.

* The Barretts 2008 fall selected yearling sale, to be conducted on Sept. 30 in Pomona, has 235 horses cataloged. The sale catalogs are available online at Barretts.com.