08/01/2005 11:00PM

Two who ought to try turf

Andromeda's Hero (above) has strong turf influences from both his sire, Fusaichi Pegasus, and his first three dams, so he may flourish on grass.

LAS VEGAS - Far be it from me to tell Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey and Nick Zito where to place their horses, but after watching Winner and Andromeda's Hero last weekend, it may be time to try turf.

Winner looked so good winning her six-furlong maiden debut in June at Belmont, but has looked ordinary in two subsequent starts, all on dirt. It was something of a surprise when Winner won her first race so easily, because offspring by Horse Chestnut have not been that precocious on dirt. Horse Chestnut was not only a Horse of the Year in South Africa, he was one of the greatest racehorses that country ever produced. A grandson of Sadler's Wells, Horse Chestnut won his only start in North America, the Broward Handicap, in a manner that suggested he would be just as brilliant on dirt and was immediately among the top older runners. Unfortunately, an injury shortly after his Broward victory forced his retirement to Claiborne Farm, where Horse Chestnut was provided with an array of high-class mares from top female families such as Pennant Champion, the dam of Winner.

Pennant Champion was a winner of 2 of 7 starts, but as a daughter of Mr. Prospector out of undefeated champion Personal Ensign, she was automatically going to be a future broodmare for the Phipps family regardless of her race record. As a full sister to stakes winners Miner's Mark and Traditionally, and a half-sister to My Flag, as well as stakes-placed Our Emblem and Proud and True, Pennant Champion would be a welcome addition to any broodmare band.

Pennant Champion's best offspring thus far is Baseball Champion, a son of Wild Again who won 4 of 19 starts and $179,710. Bred to a variety of stallions, including Broad Brush and A.P. Indy, Pennant Champion has yet to produce anything that comes close to her own pedigree, but when Winner won her debut so impressively, it was thought that she may be the one.

After two so-so efforts on dirt following her maiden score, Winner should appreciate a switch to grass, like her stablemate Cologne, another daughter of Horse Chestnut. Cologne is out of the unraced Mr. Prospector mare Rhineland, a daughter of Versailles Treaty, winner of the Alabama Stakes and two-time runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Cologne woke up when placed on turf, winning her grass debut, and finished third in a tough allowance, beaten only a half-length for all the money at 18-1, also on the turf.

Although he won the Broward on dirt, runners by Horse Chestnut were not expected to make an impact on that surface, and indeed, his best foal thus far is Lucifer's Stone, a multiple stakes winner on grass.

Everyone knows that the primary reason for the Phippses' continued success over the last century is their broodmares, the source of racing class. In addition to breeding to their own stallions, such as Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Majestic Light, Private Account, Reviewer, and Seeking the Gold, a major part of their success was going to outside stallions.

In the 1960's, they bred to Ribot, Round Table, and Swaps, and matings from these sires resulted in stakes winners and, more importantly, fillies who became important broodmares. While there were some failures along the way, most notably with the South American super horse Pronto, they ultimately prevailed by sending their mares to such stallions as Herbager, Tatan, Le Fabuleux, and Sky High II. Breeding to stallions such as Herbager and Le Fabuleux, however, completely changed the Phipps operation from a stable that was known for its prowess with 2-year-olds to a stable that was winning grass marathons. Their broodmares were still producing quality individuals, but the type of stallion they bred to altered the running style of their offspring, as well as their distance and surface preference. Since Horse Chestnut fits the mold of a Herbager or Le Fabuleux, Winner may find her niche on grass.

Andromeda's Hero: Time for change?

It has been a study in frustration following Andromeda's Hero. It is no secret that I have been in his corner since his maiden debut, but it may also be time to mix things up and try him on grass despite his second in the Belmont Stakes. While bred to relish 1 1/2 miles on any surface, he simply outclassed those who finished behind him.

Andromeda's Hero is from the first crop of Fusaichi Pegasus, and while the Kentucky Derby winner has sired some fast horses on dirt, his offspring have also prospered on turf. The majority of sons of Mr. Prospector, such as Distant View, Forty Niner, Gone West, Gulch, Kingmambo, Machiavellian, Miswaki, Seeking the Gold, and Woodman, have proved to be extremely versatile, getting top-class runners on turf as well as dirt.

Andromeda's Hero has many more turf influences in his dam's pedigree than dirt. His first three dams are by Storm Bird, Roberto, and Arts and Letters. Storm Bird, a son of Northern Dancer, was a champion at 2 in England and Ireland, but his place in history is guaranteed as the sire of Storm Cat. Roberto, a son of Hail to Reason, was a performer of the highest class in Europe and became a prominent sire of sires. His important sons at stud include Brian's Time, Dynaformer, Kris S., Lear Fan, Red Ransom, and Silver Hawk - all superior grass sires. Arts and Letters was a champion at 3 and Horse of the Year in 1969, but as a son of Ribot, was automatically a source of grass breeding.