08/04/2005 11:00PM

Two Breeders' entrants were sale bargains

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Jambalaya and Stephen's Gift, two of the leading contender's in Sunday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes at Woodbine, have a lot more in common than simply being possible winners of the third jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.

The Ontario-bred 3-year-olds both found their way down to the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2003, both were sold on the ninth day of the 12-day auction, and each was picked up by Ontario horse people for not much money.

Jambalaya, the likely Breeders' favorite who was bred by Gus Schickedanz, received a bid of just $2,500 at that sale, while Stephen's Gift, bred by Mike Carroll and John C. Harvey Jr., was a $10,000 purchase.

Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya for her family's Kingfield Farms, remembers her first impressions of Jambalaya, who is a son of Langfuhr (sire of 2003 Breeders' Stakes and Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando).

"We saw him at the sale, earlier in the morning the day before," said Day Phillips, who won last year's Breeders' with Canadian sale purchase A Bit O'Gold. "I liked him - he had a lovely walk. But he also had huge joints, giant knees, giant feet, giant everything."

Day Phillips was also attracted to the youngster's pedigree since the second dam, multiple stakes winner Muskrat Love, is the granddam of Heat It Up, who won the Duchess Stakes for the trainer in 2000.

But when the colt entered the sales ring, Day Phillips had forgotten to examine the horse's X-rays and quickly scrambled to look at the veterinary report.

"[Trainers] Mark Casse and Dr. Greg De Gannes were there, too," said Day Phillips. "There was a lot written about him [on the veterinary report], which turned out to be nothing, but all the time we were fussing over it, he went into the ring."

Jambalaya didn't receive a bid until Casse raised his hand at $2,500 and then let Day Phillips sign the ticket and take the horse home.

Jambalaya is the fifth foal of Muskrat Suzie, a winning daughter of Vice Regent. Two of her previous four foals raced, and only one of those was a winner.

Jambalaya's second dam, Muskrat Love, a stakes winner on the grass, produced Muskrat Sammy, who won the 1996 Cup and Saucer Stakes on the turf.

Stephen's Gift, who, like Jambalaya, was part of the Hill 'n' Dale Farms consignment for the Keeneland sale, is also a large colt. He is from the first crop of Donn Handicap winner Stephen Got Even.

The colt, who will be making his grass debut in the Breeders' for owners Monte Christo and Florida Racing Stables, is the 10th consecutive foal produced by Charitable Gift, a Spend a Buck mare who was stakes-placed as a 2-year-old.

Her first foal was the Summer Squall colt Othello, who finished second in the 1995 Del Mar Futurity.

Five of the mare's other foals are winners, and two of them won on the grass.

Glenn Sikura, owner of the Canadian arm of Hill 'n' Dale, also sold A Bit O'Gold, a $60,000 yearling graduate.

"I guess the lesson to be learned is that buyers can be overly critical sometimes," Sikura said about the bargain Breeders' runners. "Not every horse that runs well is a poster child; they still can be athletic. I think a lot of buyers outsmart themselves. They look at a horse and try to find reasons not to buy him."

With the premier Canadian-bred yearling sale set to start on Sept. 6, there will be hundreds of opportunities to find another future classic contender.