05/05/2005 11:00PM

Unusual Heat joins ranks of 2005 millionaire sires

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Unusual Heat's rise to the top rank of California stallions is nearly complete.

Unusual Heat recently went past $1 million in progeny earnings for 2005, the fifth California-based stallion to reach that milestone this year. Through Thursday, In Excess led the list with $1,275,444, followed by Swiss Yodeler ($1,129,655), Atticus ($1,126,496), Bertrando ($1,124,663), and Unusual Heat ($1,050,293).

Unusual Heat reached that status with fewer runners than the other millionaire stallions. While Bertrando has had 94 starters and 35 winners, Unusual Heat has had 38 runners and 19 winners.

Unusual Heat's runners have been led by Scrofa, the winner of the Irish O'Brien Handicap at Santa Anita in March, and Juliesugardaddy, who won the Harry Henson Stakes here on April 22.

Unusual Heat is well in front of last year's pace, when he finished the season with progeny earnings of $1,932,697, ranking 14th on California's overall list.

Not surprisingly, Unusual Heat's success has led to widespread interest in his services. Unusual Heat has been booked to more than 100 mares, according to Bud Johnston, who owns Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., where Unusual Heat stands.

"It's a full book," Johnston said. "It's what we hoped for."

Owned by a partnership, Unusual Heat stands for $6,000, but that could change for 2006, Johnston said.

"I would imagine his stud fee will be raised," he said. "We must have turned down 75 mares."

When Unusual Heat went to stud in 1998, the partners who owned him were so eager to attract mares that they waived the stud fee. The stallion's status grew quickly after one of his runners, Lennyfromalibu, developed into a top turf miler in the statebred division.

Unusual Heat is the rare stallion in California who has a pedigree that is primarily turf. By champion racehorse and top stallion Nureyev, Unusual Heat is out of Rossard, a champion in Denmark and Sweden and the winner of the 1984 Flower Bowl Handicap at Belmont Park.

On the track, Unusual Heat, a Kentucky-bred, won minor stakes in Ireland from 1992 to 1994. In the United States, he was initially trained by Richard Mandella, but was claimed by Barry Abrams for $80,000. Unusual Heat made two starts for Abrams, including one win, before suffering a tendon injury that forced his retirement.

Abrams has trained many Unusual Heat runners, including Lennyfromalibu and Juliesugardaddy, who is being considered for the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on May 28.

Abrams credits Unusual Heat's pedigree for the sire's success.

"He's got a great pedigree, and people don't realize that," he said. "I don't how many Nureyev sires there are in the world when the dam is a Grade 1 winner. That has something to do with it."

Farm having busy year, even without 'Mandate'

Unusual Heat is the leading stallion by book size at Old English Rancho this year. Johnston said the farm is having an active year, with Royal Cat bred to 75 mares, Poteen to 50, and interest for the young stallions Western Verse, Vronsky, and Unbridled Native.

"We are really busy," he said.

Perfect Mandate, who finished 2004 with progeny earnings of $255,551 from only 22 starters, has been sidelined this year after injuring a pastern while being exercised before the breeding season began. The injury required surgery, but Johnston said the outlook is optimistic.

"He should be all right for next year," Johnston said. "He draws 100 mares. We couldn't breed anything to him this year."

This is the second full season Perfect Mandate has missed; he was out of action in 2000 after being kicked.

"He's been a bad-luck horse in that respect," Johnston said.