08/28/2003 11:00PM

Try, try again approach pays


In the breeding business, says longtime horsewoman Cynthia McGinnes, "If you don't give up, eventually things go right."

To back up her belief, McGinnes need look no further than Perfect Blue, the rapidly improving 3-year-old filly who rallied to defeat six Maryland-bred rivals when winning the Pearl Necklace Stakes on Aug. 16 at Laurel Park.

Perfect Blue (by Perfecting) was bred by Thornmar Farm, the Eastern Shore (Md.) establishment operated by McGinnes and her husband, Charles. She is just the sort of runner the McGinneses envisioned 11 years ago when they bought her dam, China Blue, by Gentleman Gene, for $1,100 (in foal to High Gold) at the 1992 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale.

The McGinneses knew they'd found a bargain in China Blue, who was sold as part of a Briardale Farm (Joseph Imbesi) consignment. "She's a beautiful mare, with a wonderful disposition and a strong pedigree," McGinnes said. "I don't know whether I should say this, but after the sale Mr. Imbesi wanted her back; he kept trying to buy her from us."

China Blue, herself a modest winner, comes from Briardale's signature family, and is a full sister to stakes winners Hi Ideal ($336,148) and Brave Adventure ($263,996) as well as a half-sister to Wind Drinker ($210,755).

"We knew she'd throw a stakes winner at some point," McGinnes said. The question was when.

The first six foals China Blue produced for the McGinneses were nothing special - with the possible exception of Good Guy, a namesake of Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis. "He was cut out to be a stakes horse," McGinnes said of Good Guy.

Good Guy, a 1996 foal by Valley Crossing, raced for De Francis and the McGinneses in partnership, winning or placing in 5 of 7 starts and earning $43,512 - despite a condylar fracture. He is now well-embarked on a second career with Maryland's Marlborough Hunt, according to McGinnes.

The McGinneses were aiming for balance when they chose Perfecting, a son of Affirmed, as China Blue's mate for the 1999 breeding season. "She's such a great big mare, we figured she needed a smaller stallion, and Perfecting seemed like a good choice," she said. "He has done well with limited opportunity, and is a very underrated horse."

Perfecting stands at Elberton Hill Farm in Darlington, Md.

Primarily commercial breeders, the McGinneses did not hesitate to offer Perfect Blue as part of the Thornmar consignment at the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale, where Oxford, Pa., trainer Roger Werneth bought her for $7,200.

For Werneth, it was love at first sight. "She's a little longer [bodied] than I usually like," he said. "But she had a nice frame, even as a yearling, and a lot of height. I knew her pedigree - she has grass runners, top and bottom."

Werneth had planned to resell Perfect Blue at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale but ended up buying her back for $30,000.

Racing for Mason Dixon Racing, a partnership of Werneth and Michigan residents Paul and Kathy Smoke, Perfect Blue has been perfect in her last two starts, both on the turf. She staged a $68.40 upset in allowance company at Delaware Park on July 20 and came back to win the Pearl Necklace.

Werneth attributes her upturn in form to the addition of blinkers, a change of rider to Juan Umana, and modifications in her training routine. Perfect Blue is the best horse he's ever trained, said Werneth, who has been in the business for 16 years.

Meanwhile, the McGinneses are looking for more positive things to come. China Blue has a yearling Meadow Monster filly who will be offered at this year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall sale, and a 2003 colt by Storm Broker.