12/23/2002 12:00AM

Walters' latest star is Cavonnier's sis


Northern California breeders Robert and Barbara Walter are doing a little Kentucky dreaming again - and not without reason.

Since they began breeding, as they put it, "seriously," in 1988, the Walters have produced a number of outstanding horses, including millionaires Tout Charmant, Lazy Slusan, and Cavonnier, winner of the 1996 Santa Anita Derby and second in that year's Kentucky Derby.

Although the Walters have sold many of their horses as well as part of their Vine Hill Ranch in Sebastopol, Calif., for tax and estate purposes, they are still active breeders and have an undefeated 2-year-old filly, Watch Out World, who is a half-sister to Cavonnier.

Barbara Walter points out that the acronym for Watch Out World is WOW, and said she knew it was fitting when she named the filly.

Watch Out World, by Slewvescent out of Direwarning, has won her only two starts. One of the fillies she defeated in her debut was Elloluv, recent winner of the Grade 1 Starlet at Hollywood Park.

Watch Out World will make her stakes debut in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes, a seven-furlong, $125,000 race Friday at Santa Anita.

Trainer Armando Lage said, "I think she will develop into one of the best 3-year-olds in the country," and suggests she could become a Grade 1 winner.

The Walters would love to have her run in the Kentucky Oaks, hoping for better luck than Cavonnier had in the Derby.

He was hit in the head by an errant whip as he was beginning to make his move at the top of the lane, an incident that may have cost him the race. He took the lead but was caught at the wire by Grindstone in one of the longest photo-finish waits in Kentucky Derby history.

Cavonnier has been the Walters' best horse from a breeding program that turned the corner after the acquisition of the mare Fagers Charm in 1984. They claimed Fagers Charm from Verne Winchell for $16,000 at the local Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa. Fagers Charm went on to win over $112,704, earning black type by winning the 1985 Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap at Pleasanton.

But it was as a broodmare that Fagers Charm truly made her name, winning the award as California's top broodmare posthumously in 1992.

In 1987, Fagers Charm was bred to Batonnier, whom the Walters had bought for $60,000 at the 1986 Keeneland fall mixed sale. The result was multiple stakes winner Charmonnier, who earned $508,590 and scored one of the biggest upsets in Cal Cup history when he defeated Best Pal in the 1991 Classic.

Fagers Charm was bred back to Batonnier in 1989 and produced California's champion 3-year-old filly of 1992, Charm a Gendarme, the dam of Tout Charmant.

After Fagers Charm died in 1991, the Walters bought Direwarning, a daughter of 1983 Belmont winner Caveat and Mazurka.

"We were looking for a nice-quality mare," Robert Walter said.

Cavonnier was Direwarning's third foal.

Cavonnier, a son of Batonnier, was voted California's top 2-year-old in 1995, with Batroyale - also owned and bred by the Walters - the top 2-year-old filly. It was the first time that California's two juvenile champions had the same sire, owner, and breeder.

Cavonnier was actually considered only the Walters' third-best 2-year-old for a while that year. Argonnier, also sired by Batonnier, was considered a better prospect early in the year by Robert Walter and trainer Bob Baffert.

"Argonnier gave everything he had all the time," Robert Walter said. "Cavonnier was talented but a little lazy."

"I always told them Cavonnier was going to be better," Barbara Walter said.

On one remarkable weekend, Batroyale won the Grade 2 Del Mar Debutante, Argonnier won the I'm Smokin at Del Mar, and Cavonnier won the King Glorious at Bay Meadows.

Cavonnier was the California 3-year-old champion and horse of the year in 1996, when the Walters were named the state's top breeders.

A full brother to Watch Out World, Slukase, was foaled in 1995 and a full sister, Ukase, was foaled in 1996.

"They were both gorgeous," Barbara Walter said.

Slukase was considered one of the best colts in Baffert's barn as a 2-year-old, but he broke a leg in training and had to be euthanized. Ukase never made it to the races either, a victim of EPM.

But their obvious talent raised the Walters' expectations for Watch Out World.

The Walters have a yearling half-brother to Watch Out World. He is the final foal of Direwarning, who had to be put down in November 2001.

The sire of Watch Out World, Slewvescent, had his first crop in 1993, two years after the Walters bought him. A son of Seattle Slew, Slewvescent stands at Special T Thoroughbreds in Temecula. On the track, he won only 1 of 7 career starts.

The Slewvescent-Direwarning cross could mean turf success for Watch Out World. Slewvescent is the sire of Tout Charmant, Lazy Slusan, and Ringaskiddy, all Grade 1 winners on the turf.

The Walters have 10 mares currently in foal, nine weanlings from the crop of 2002, and 17 yearlings.

"We've got a pretty good crop," Robert Walter said.