12/20/2001 12:00AM

Twining coming home; Victory Speech to Japan

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Twining, sire of Two Item Limit and nine other stakes winners this year, will return to his former home at Kentucky's Wimbledon Farm for the 2002 breeding season. A 10-year-old Forty Niner stallion, Twining has stood at Japan's East Stud on the island of Hokkaido since his private sale in 1999 and returns to Kentucky as part of a deal involving Coolmore Stud.

Meanwhile, Coolmore stallion Victory Speech - who was to stand at Coolmore's Kentucky division, Ashford Stud, for $5,000 in 2002 - is headed to Japan. A Coolmore spokesman in Ireland confirmed the stallion's planned departure but could not say whether the 8-year-old Deputy Minister horse's destination was East Stud. Coolmore has stood other stallions, including Spinning World, at East Stud, in previous years.

Wimbledon representative George Hoskins confirmed Twining's return Thursday, saying that the horse will arrive in Kentucky around Jan. 15 and will stand for a fee of $10,000 live foal, payable Nov. 1. Twining will remain the property of East Stud and is standing under a lease deal, Hoskins said.

"We're tickled to death to have him back," Hoskins said.

Twining, a son of 1983 Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee (by Never Bend), is a top-15 general sire this year. Multiple graded stakes winner Two Item Limit is his leading runner with earnings of more than $640,000. Twining also is the sire of a host of other 2001 stakes winners, including graded stakes performers Tugger, Connected, and Top Hit. From four crops to race, he has progeny earnings of more than $9.7 million.

Toga Toga Toga put down

Grade 1 winner Toga Toga Toga, dam of promising juvenile Dubai Tiger, was euthanized in late November after a paddock accident in Kentucky.

A 9-year-old Saratoga Six mare, Toga Toga Toga was boarded at Greenfield Farm near Lexington and was in foal to Pulpit at the time of her death.

Toga Toga Toga won the 1997 Santa Monica (Grade 1), A Gleam (Grade 2), and the Bay Meadows Dash Handicap. In three seasons at the races, she amassed a career record of 18-7-4-4 and earnings of $374,489.

She is also known for her incidental role in one of racing's strangest moments. In 1995, during a race at Del Mar, a man ran onto the racetrack and was nearly struck by Toga Toga Toga. Neither the man, who was later apprehended in the track infield, nor any of the horses was injured in the incident.

Toga Toga Toga stood nearly 18 hands tall, according to one of her trainers, Ron Ellis, and "had a little bit of an attitude," said Greenfield Farm owner and manager Bruce Gibbs.

Buyers at the sales have gambled that the mare's tough attitude got passed along to her foals in the form of competitive spirit. The Storm Cat colt Dubai Tiger sold as a weanling for $900,000 before Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum bought him as a yearling for $1.8 million. Toga Toga Toga's second foal, a Seeking the Gold colt now named Ignitable, brought $510,000 from Bob and Beverly Lewis at the 2001 Keeneland July sale.

Toga Toga Toga has one remaining foal, a Danzig filly the mare produced in 2001.

Virginia season auction via phone

The Virginia Thoroughbred Association will hold its annual stallion season auction on Jan. 29-31.

Seasons already are on offer from stallions in nine states, including Kentucky. The list of seasons, located at www.vabred.org, is updated daily. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The VTA will accept bids via telephone at (540) 347-4313 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern. Starting bids will be determined by the VTA, and the minimum bid raise will be $100. Bidding will be restricted to the top three bidders on each season on Jan. 31, and bidding will close in alphabetical order by stallion name.

Also on Jan. 31, any buyer willing to pay the reserve price can purchase stallion seasons that received no bid during the auction.

Champions lost

Waya's death on Dec. 12 served as a grim reminder that 2001 has taken a heavy toll on Thoroughbred racing's North American champions.

Eleven champions are known to have died this year. Some - like 1979 champion mare Waya, 1976 champion sprinter My Juliet, and 1974 champion turf runner Dahlia - were in old age. But quite a number were still in the prime of their breeding careers. As the season draws to a close, it's worth listing the champions who left us in 2001, some well before their time: 1978 and 1979 Horse of the Year Affirmed; 1998 champion 3-year-old filly Banshee Breeze; 1974 champion 3-year-old filly Chris Evert; Dahlia; 1981 champion turf filly De La Rose; My Juliet; 1997 champion turf filly Ryafan; 1989 champion turf male Steinlen; 1990 champion 3-year-old Unbridled; 1975 champion 3-year-old Wajima; and Waya.

A 12th champion should also be added to the list, though he did not earn an Eclipse. Nureyev, France's champion miler in 1980, was a top sire in Kentucky for much of his career and contributed much to the quality of Thoroughbred bloodlines worldwide. He died at Walmac International on Oct. 29.