03/13/2008 12:00AM

Visionaire a hit for young mare Scarlet Tango

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With a bold run out of the fog last week in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, Visionaire became a contender for the Kentucky Derby and confirmed the quality of Louisiana form - he was third to Pyro by 2 3/4 lengths in the Risen Star Stakes last month at Fair Grounds.

In the Gotham, Visionaire came from far back to nip Texas Wildcatter by a nose. A chestnut son of the Gone West stallion Grand Slam, Visionaire is out of the French Deputy mare Scarlet Tango and was bred in Kentucky by Reiley McDonald, who co-owns the highly successful Eaton Sales agency with Tom Van Meter.

In addition to his extensive auction consignment business, McDonald owns a 110-acre farm called Athens Woods outside Athens, Ky., one of the hamlets in the hunt country on the periphery of Lexington, and he keeps 10 mares of his own there.

One of them is Scarlet Tango, whom McDonald acquired at the Keeneland January sale in 2003.

"I was selling at Keeneland when I saw Scarlet Tango standing in the back ring, and she just caught my eye," said McDonald, who was at the sale for Eaton. "So, I followed her to the sales ring, and after the consignor bought her back, purchased her privately from David Mullins."

Mullins said, "This was a lovely mare and didn't bring what I thought she would on the day, but she was the type you love to sell and will bring more business over the long haul."

McDonald said that Scarlet Tango is an overall pretty mare and that he was attracted to her for her beautiful shoulder and great hip.

To a commercial breeder, those physical attributes - along with some racing ability that was indicated by a stakes placing - were the factors that could attract buyers to Scarlet Tango's foals, yearlings, or 2-year-olds.

Visionaire is her second foal, and although he was a nice colt, McDonald didn't sell Visionaire when the colt went to the Saratoga select sale as a yearling.

"I had three Grand Slams that year and thought that it was tough to sell all three in one consignment," McDonald said. "There's a little conflict of interest there, since this was my own colt, and you don't know if one courtyard [at the Saratoga sales grounds] could take three by the same sire at a small sale. Placing him elsewhere seemed like the only fair thing to do.

"So, I split him out of the Eaton consignment and asked Paramount Sales to sell him for me, and they did a good job."

Indeed they did. Visionaire brought $300,000 at the Saratoga select yearling auction in 2006, which was the fifth-highest price of the year for a Grand Slam.

Offered for sale twice as a 2-year-old in training, Visionaire was bought back at the Fasig-Tipton February sale of 2-year-olds in training and then sold at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s June auction of juveniles in training for $220,000.

At the February sale, Visionaire had a stride length of 24.3 feet and a BreezeFig of 64. He ran a steady furlong in 10.40 seconds and four months later came back to run a quarter in 21.40 and bring $220,000, the second-highest price at the sale.

Vision Racing put the horse into training for a syndicate and then sold a major interest to Team Valor.

McDonald said that Scarlet Tango "pretty well breeds to the stallion in type. So all her foals have been great-looking and tend to look like the stallion. And Grand Slam is a great-looking horse."

Winner of the Champagne Stakes at 2 and the Peter Pan at 3, along with a second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Grand Slam was a classy racehorse who went to stud with high expectations.

Grand Slam, one of the most handsome sons of the important sire of stallions Gone West, has sired 42 stakes winners. Grand Slam's best offspring include Cajun Beat (winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint), Limehouse (Brooklyn Handicap), and Strong Hope (Jim Dandy Stakes).

A 13-year-old stallion, Grand Slam has several promising young sons at stud, including Strong Hope, one of the brightest prospects in Kentucky, and Alke, who is a well-regarded young stallion in Florida. The first foals of both of these young stallions will race in 2008 and have drawn good reviews from sales buyers. Limehouse has his first yearlings this year.

Grand Slam stands at Ashford Stud outside Versailles, Ky., for $35,000 live foal.

"Scarlet Tango is due to foal in about a week to Grand Slam," McDonald said. "I'm in the process of picking a stallion for her right now. I'm thinking of both going back to Grand Slam because I love the stallion, the cross has already worked with Visionaire, and I think Grand Slam is great value. I'd get a lot of bang for my buck going back to the horse."