12/22/2009 12:00AM

Turf sires get a chance

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Benoit & Associates
Richard Migliore guides Dixie Chatter to the winner's circle after the 2008 Oceanside Stakes. Dixie Chatter begins study duty in 2010.

Promoting a new stallion such as Dixie Chatter to mare owners will present some challenges for the team at River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif., in coming months. The same goes for the way that Tommy Town Thoroughbreds in Santa Ynez will market the multiple stakes winner Whatsthescript.

The horses were successful on the track, but both specialized in an aspect of racing that has not typically been sought by California breeders. They were best on turf.

Now that synthetic surfaces have replaced traditional dirt on California's main tracks, it could be the right time to invest in turf sires. Horses that run well on turf have

frequently shown an affinity for the synthetic surfaces - Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, Polytrack at Del Mar, and Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields.

Dixie Chatter will stand for $5,000, while Whatsthescript is offered at $4,000, live foal.

The people behind the stallions are hoping that those prices and strong race records will draw the attention of mare owners.

Dixie Chatter, a winner of 4 of 13 starts and $464,606, won such major stakes as the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes on a synthetic surface at 2, but raced primarily on turf at 3 and 4, winning two stakes.

Farm manager Russell Drake said support from Dixie Chatter's breeder and co-owner, Herman Sarkowsky, and co-owner Marty Wygod, who owns River Edge, will help the soon-to-be 5-year-old stallion.

"We'll try him with a lot of different types of mares," Drake said. "He's a good-looking horse and correct. We've got some good mares coming to him."

Drake said he was active at the Kentucky sales in November, acquiring mares for the stallion's owners. In addition, he said that Wygod will support Dixie Chatter with mares by Bertrando, a stalwart in California breeding over the last 15 years.

Dixie Chatter's career ended in May when a tendon injury was detected following a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park. The farm is hoping to get 70 to 80 mares to Dixie Chatter, who is by Dixie Union out of Mini Chat.

"I think 70 or 80 will happen pretty easily," Drake said. "That would be pretty representative of what he can do. There will be a lot of different pedigrees in that group.

"I think most are looking at him because he's certainly a different bred horse than what we've seen in California for a long time. I haven't seen anybody that didn't like him. We'll try some Storm Cat pedigrees with him and see what happens."

Whatsthescript was a late addition to the Tommy Town stallion roster for 2010. An injury that farm owner Tom Stull described as minor was detected this fall. Stull considered giving Whatsthescript a break and bringing him back to racing in 2010 but opted to retire him to stud.

Whatsthescript won 6 of 19 starts and $907,964. He had an outstanding record on turf in 2008, winning the Grade 2 American Handicap and Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. Later that year, he finished third in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. He finished eighth in the 2009 BC Mile in his final start.

Bred in Ireland, Whatsthescript is by Royal Applause and is the most successful foal out of the Lion Cavern mare Grizel, a three-time winner in England.

"He's got a good pedigree, but it's European," Stull said.

Whatsthescript was winless in five starts this year but was third in three consecutive races - the American Handicap, Eddie Read Stakes, and Oak Tree Mile. The latter race left Stull upset, since Whatsthescript was wide throughout and was beaten only 1 1/4 lengths.

Stull said he will send 20 mares to Whatsthescript and is hopeful that the California bloodstock market will show growth after a down year in 2009 brought on by uncertainty about the state's racing

market and a poor economy.

"This market is very questionable, especially in California," Stull said. "There are a lot of people not breeding."

Stull said he would support the stallion with at least 20 mares.