09/07/2006 11:00PM

Unlike sire, Circular Quay shows early skill

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Circular Quay became the second son of Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch to win a Grade 1 stakes in North America with a thoroughly confident and impressive victory in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.

In a bit of fortunate timing, the other Grade 1-winning son of Thunder Gulch, Point Given, is the sire of last weekend's winner of the Del Mar Debutante, Point Ashley. Point Ashley is the first Grade 1 winner for Point Given, whose first crop of racers are now 3 and showed their best form this year, rather than as 2-year-olds.

Both Point Ashley and Circular Quay are slightly atypical of the Thunder Gulch stock in coming to hand early at 2. Thunder Gulch himself was a high-class juvenile who began to show top form late at 2, won the Remsen, and ran second in the Hollywood Futurity at that age, but he is best known for his classic successes that earned him a divisional championship at 3.

Point Given won the Hollywood Futurity as the first of six Grade 1 victories during his career. Unlike his sire, Point Given lost the Kentucky Derby but won both the Preakness and Belmont, and both horses also won the Travers.

A late-maturing 2-year-old, Thunder Gulch grew into a very good classic colt. He was up with the pace in the Kentucky Derby and stayed on very stoutly to win the classic, and his overall consistency and high class throughout the year brought him the championship as outstanding 3-year-old colt.

And, while Thunder Gulch occasionally sires an individual more precocious than himself, there are usually influences in the pedigree to indicate that a blending of traits has taken place. In the case of Circular Quay, Thunder Gulch's own sire, champion sprinter Gulch, may have played a role in the speed and potential versatility of the flashy chestnut colt.

As a sire of classic winners and a champion, Gulch is a stallion who produces a good variety of racing aptitudes in his offspring, which he combined to show during his own career on the track. In addition to winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Gulch also won the Wood Memorial, consecutive runnings of the Metropolitan Handicap, and was third in the Belmont Stakes at 3. And as a juvenile, Gulch won the 1986 Hopeful.

In addition to the influence of Gulch and his sire Mr. Prospector, who combined outstanding speed with the capacity to sire classic winners, Circular Quay is out of a mare who was a top-class juvenile, Circle of Life.

Circular Quay is the first Grade 1 winner bred by Doreen Tabor, and races for her and her husband, Michael. The colt is the second foal from Circle of Life, who won the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes in 1999. Circle of Life is one of the best daughters of the fast Danzig stallion Belong to Me.

The Tabors board Circle of Life at Creekview Farm in Bourbon County, Ky. Prior to producing Circular Quay, Circle of Life foaled a bay colt by Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, now a 3-year-old named Circle the World. The mare's third foal is a yearling chestnut colt by Fusaichi Pegasus, and her fourth foal was another colt by the same sire. Unfortunately, the foal of 2006 died. The mare is back in foal to Giant's Causeway.

Michael Tabor is a close associate of John Magnier, who is the chief of the international breeding conglomerate Coolmore. In addition to its stallion stations in Australia, Ireland, and the United States, Coolmore also operates Creekview for mares and foals.

A major player in international racing for more than a decade, Tabor first came to prominence as an owner in the U.S. with the private purchase of Thunder Gulch in 1993. After that resounding success, he has continued as a serious owner in the States, and he bought Circle of Life for $700,000 at the 1999 Fasig-Tipton sale of select 2-year-olds in training through Demi O'Byrne.

That purchase paid dividends with a victory in the Spinaway before year's end, but the mare would provide a golden harvest if her son Circular Quay continues at the top of the tree among American juveniles this season and trains on to become a classic contender next year.

Circular Quay won the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs on July 8 and is undefeated in three starts. He is expected to start next in the fall preps leading up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and, if all goes well, be prepared for the classics.

A consistent sire of horses who stay a mile and sometimes much farther, Thunder Gulch has sired 54 stakes winners, including Grade 1 winner Balance this year. Thunder Gulch stands at Ashford, and his fee in 2006 was $25,000.