08/29/2001 11:00PM

Wajima, record yearling and champion, dead at 29

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Wajima, the record-priced $600,000 yearling who became 1975's champion 3-year-old colt, was euthanized on Aug. 27 because of the infirmities of old age. Wajima, 29, died at Stone Farm near Paris, Ky., said farm owner Arthur Hancock III, son of Wajima's legendary breeder, the late A. B. "Bull" Hancock Jr.

Wajima, a son of Bold Ruler and the Le Haar mare Iskra, was from one of the last crops of horses bred by Bull Hancock. Hancock, who died in September of 1972, did not live long enough to see the bay colt sell at Keeneland's July auction.

Even auctioneer George Swinebroad was surprised when Irish agent Tom Copper opened bidding at $500,000. After double-checking the amount with the bid-spotter, Swinebroad proceeded, but he didn't have far to go. Lexington bloodstock agent Jim Scully bid $600,000, and that was all it took. Scully put together a syndicate that included famed Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida and raced in the name of East-West Stable.

Trained by Steve DiMauro, Wajima won four Grade 1 races: the Monmouth Invitational Handicap; the Travers Stakes, which he won by 10 lengths; the Governor Stakes; and the Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap. The streak ended when he finished second to Forego in the Grade 1 Woodward, followed by a second to Group Plan in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Retired after his championship 3-year-old season with nine wins and $537,838 in earnings, Wajima initially stood at Spendthrift Farm, which syndicated him for a then-record $200,000 share price. Wajima moved to Stone Farm in 1987.

Wajima's most successful progeny include Canadian champion Key to the Moon and graded stakes winners Pretty Perfect, Give Me a Hint, Polite Rebuff, and Wajimego, and multiple stakes winner Excitable Lady, an earner of more than $399,000.

TheGreatestGame.com's budget unsure

One year after its launch, TheGreatestGame.com - an owner-recruitment venture by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and other industry groups - may seek additional funding from the industry, according to the NTRA's Reed Farley, who manages the project.

"The information we've collected is useable by every sales company and state breeders' organization," Farley said, noting that TheGreatestGame.com already has research and advertising in place that such groups can use. "You'd think they would not want to duplicate expense by doing this research themselves and would be willing to contribute to the program.

"I hope what we do complements what other groups like Thoroughbred Owners of California are doing," Farley said. He would not disclose the project's current budget but said that Keeneland is "by far" the biggest contributor. Others are the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, The Blood-Horse, and Equineline.com.

TheGreatestGame.com's immediate future is somewhat unsettled, as Farley awaits word on the program's second-year budget allotment and even whether the NTRA will continue to manage it.

"There has always been discussion about what the breadth of the NTRA's mandate should be," Farley noted. "We're giving some thought as to where the program is best housed, but I can't imagine that the program would not exist. TOBA, for example, has been the traditional bastion of owner-recruitment in the industry."

In its first year, the Web-based project has completed surveys of more than 350 Thoroughbred owners; launched an advertising campaign to drive interested recruits to its Web site; posted TOBA-generated information about ownership online; established a directory of 147 trainers; and co-hosted a recruitment event for California attorneys in partnership with TOC. Next week, TheGreatestGame.com will borrow a page from a TOC program by launching a mentoring program that will allow potential owners to E-mail questions to current owners. Farley said questions will be forwarded automatically to a random selection of two or three mentors from a group of 19 volunteers, who will remain unidentified.

Farley estimated the site gets about 200 hits per week, and he said the participant database collected from log-in information stands at "several hundred."