11/19/2004 12:00AM

Two big names make home at O'Sullivan


Build it, and they will come. Randy Funkhouser has already seen that statement validated.

Funkhouser's new 12-stall stallion barn, office, and breeding shed at O'Sullivan Farms in Charles Town is still a few weeks from completion, but seven stalls are already reserved for the upcoming breeding season - including four for stallions new to West Virginia.

The strength of West Virginia's breeding program has helped lure notable stallions Black Tie Affair, Housebuster, and Bop from Virginia, while Inner Harbour, a stakes-winning son of Capote, will be standing his first year at stud. Even for a state with a breeding industry on the rise, the new stallions to O'Sullivan Farms have created a stir.

"The state is ready for higher-end horses," said Funkhouser. "A lot of people want to breed and race here, and want to breed to horses of that caliber."

Funkhouser has an encyclopedic mind for pedigrees and has applied that knowledge to selecting stallions in the past.

"I bred to both Black Tie Affair and Housebuster when they were in Virginia," said Funkhouser, who keeps approximately 32 mares for his family and various clients at the farm year-round.

O'Sullivan Farms's long history in West Virginia goes back to the 1930's, and it has been at its current location since 1957. The farm is spread over nearly 200 acres, with Earle Road splitting the property, located just 10 minutes from Charles Town Race Track. The new facility is across the road from the previous stallion barn, which has housed the likes of leading West Virginia sire Feel the Power.

Three stallions stood at O'Sullivan Farms in 2004 - Makin, a son of Danzig; the Gone West horse Way West, who moved to West Virginia for 2004; and Western Cat, by Storm Cat out of a Mill Reef mare. The trio covered nearly 150 mares in 2004, topped by Makin, with 61.

Seattle Slew's son Eastover Court was the O'Sullivan stallion looking forward to the biggest book in 2004. A half-brother to top sire Two Punch, Eastover Court had gained a new appreciation when he moved to O'Sullivan Farms in 2001 for the start of his eighth season at stud. His book more than tripled, as the 17-hand gray covered 57 mares in 2001 and 78 the next year. Just after the start of the 2003 season, Eastover Court became ill and was sent to the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. Found to have pneumonia, Eastover Court missed the rest of the breeding season and didn't return to O'Sullivan until the fall. Even when Eastover Court returned, Funkhouser knew he was not right.

"Normally very aggressive, he seemed to have lost his fire," said Funkhouser.

Sent back to New Bolton, Eastover Court died in January at the age of 13. At the time of his death, his book has swelled to 75 mares.

With the additions of Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair and champion sprinter Housebuster, both established sires, O'Sullivan Farms will have stallions capable of filling the void of losing Eastover Court. And Funkhouser is high on Bop, a world-record-setting sprinter by Rahy from the family of famed broodmare Iltis who stood his first season last year.

Inner Harbour won or placed in seven stakes, earning $350,936. By champion Capote, Inner Harbour is out of the stakes-winning mare Blue Sky Princess (by Conquistador Cielo).

"He is an incredibly good-looking horse," said Funkhouser. "With his combination of race record and looks, he should be well received."

A stallion showing and open house at O'Sullivan are planned for mid-January.