05/17/2005 11:00PM

Unknown illness kills Housebuster

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Two-time sprint champion Housebuster has died in Virginia. The 18-year-old Housebuster was standing at stud at O'Sullivan Farms in Charles Town, W. Va., but was shipped to a Virginia veterinary clinic on Sunday, when he died, according to Donna Hayes, manager of the syndicate that owned Housebuster.

Housebuster's cause of death was unknown as of Wednesday morning, Hayes said, adding that the syndicate would ask for a necropsy.

"All I know is that he's not here anymore, and it breaks my heart," Hayes said. "It was very, very quick."

Hayes said Housebuster "took ill" on Sunday. "He was transported to an emergency veterinary clinic, and he could not be revived," she said.

The horse was conscious and ambulatory when he left the farm, according to farm staff.

Hayes's agency, The Stallion Company, had purchased Housebuster from a group of Japanese breeders in 2001 and brought him back to stand in his native North America.

Trained by Warren "Jimmy" Croll, Housebuster won Eclipse Awards as North America's top sprinter in both 1990 and 1991 after winning a combined 13 stakes in those two seasons; he also won another, the Morven Breeders' Cup Stakes, in 1989 to first earn black type. A son of Mt. Livermore and the Great Above mare Big Dreams, Housebuster was bred in partnership by Blanche Levy and Murphy Stable. Racing for Levy's son, Robert, Housebuster won three Grade 1 events: the Jerome Handicap in 1990 and the Vosburgh Stakes and Carter Handicap in 1991. He also finished second in the 1990 Metropolitan Handicap, another Grade 1.

The only blank spot in his record is the lack of a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Housebuster started in that race in 1991 as the heavy favorite but had a nightmare trip. He stumbled leaving the gate, was hampered in the stretch run, and returned after the race with a badly injured hoof. The injury, thought to have occurred as he left the starting gate, prompted his retirement from the races with a lifetime record of 22-15-3-1, including victories or placings in 11 graded stakes, and earnings of $1,229,696.

Housebuster began his breeding career at the Bell family's Jonabell Farm but was sold to Japanese interests. He stood at Hokkaido's East Stud from 1999 until his sale to The Stallion Company, which initially stood him at Blue Ridge Farm in Upperville, Va., in 2002. Housebuster was moved for the 2005 season to O'Sullivan Farms, where he was advertised with a $7,500 fee.

Many of Housebuster's top runners raced primarily in Asia, including his leading earner, Electronic Unicorn, a two-time champion miler and 2002 horse of the year in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong and Japanese stakes winner Midnight Bet. Outside Asia, Housebuster's best-known progeny are English Group 1 winner Bahamian Pirate; Grade 3-winning millionaire Morluc; graded winners Secret Liaison, Buster's Daydream, Compassionate, and Swing and Miss; and multiple American stakes winners Governor's Pride, Camella, and Bruanna.

Hayes said Housebuster will be buried alongside Lost Code at Hayes's farm, Avonlea, in White Post, Va.

Mixed figures at Barretts

The Barretts May juvenile sale in Pomona, Calif., ended Tuesday with mixed results. The one-day auction's top price was $350,000 for a Siphon colt that Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree agency sold to Narvick International, agent. That was the only lot to crack the $300,000 barrier, but it was one of 13 selling for six figures. That good trade at the market's top helped push the average price up 6 percent to $39,708. But the median price slipped 7 percent to $25,000, a factor that may have contributed to an increase in the buyback rate. Buybacks rose from last year's 16 percent to 21 percent, still considered low by juvenile market standards, where buybacks in the range of 30 percent are not uncommon.

The 2005 auction sold 193 lots for $7,663,700, up 9 percent from last year's returns for 189 2-year-olds.

* The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club will host its annual Challenge Cup golf scramble on June 20 at the University Club on Leestown Road in Lexington. The scramble will benefit the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass. For more information, contact Ben Berge at (859) 230-1574 or Bayne Welker at (859) 421-5315.