09/12/2002 12:00AM

War Emblem sale completed


DEL MAR, Calif. - War Emblem stood outside trainer Bob Baffert's barn on Thursday morning at Del Mar, getting a bath after a routine gallop. He has done little on the track since last month's Pacific Classic, but plenty has happened off the track.

A deal to sell the 3-year-old colt for stallion duty was completed late Wednesday in Lexington, Ky., and after War Emblem races once more, in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington on Oct. 26, he will head to Japan to begin stud duty at the Yoshida family's Shadai Stallion Station.

"I guess they sold him," Jim Barnes, Baffert's top assistant trainer, said as he looked at War Emblem. Oh yes, they had. For a price between $17 and $18 million, the late Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation, represented by president Richard Mulhall, agreed to sell War Emblem to brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida, who run the most successful breeding operation in Japan.

Shadai spokesman Naohiro Hosoda said his farm "purchased all of the horse, and he will be syndicated and stand at Shadai Stallion Station for 2003.

"We have signed the deal for War Emblem, and he will retire after the Breeders' Cup Classic," Hosoda said at the Keeneland yearling sales. "His fee will probably be about 8 million yen, but that isn't confirmed yet. It depends on his performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic." Based on the current exchange rate, that fee translates to approximately $75,000 per mare.

Hosoda said Teruya Yoshida inspected War Emblem at Del Mar last week. "He liked his conformation very much. The horse is a real athlete," Hosoda said.

War Emblem, a 3-year-old colt by Our Emblem out of Sweetest Lady, by Lord at War, has been compared to Sunday Silence, who stood at Shadai until his death last month. Like Sunday Silence, War Emblem has won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and they have a similar appearance: Both are wiry, near-black colts with a skinny white blaze dribbling down their face. Sunday Silence became the leading stallion in the world, and was revered in Japan.

"It's very difficult to consider him a replacement, because Sunday Silence was so great," Hosoda said. "But we think they are similar horses."

War Emblem has won 7 of 12 starts. He has been in light training since the Pacific Classic. He was scheduled to be sent by van from Del Mar to Santa Anita on Friday morning.

"Bob wanted to back off on him, freshen him up," Barnes said. "When Bob gets back from the sales next week, we'll get more serious with him."

Baffert said he had mixed feelings about the sale of War Emblem.

"It's sort of sad, because this horse had such a following, but business is business," he said from the Keeneland yearling sales. "I didn't have a say in it. When Sunday Silence died, I had a feeling they would be coming after him. He reminds me of Sunday Silence: a tough, black horse. There had been a lot of Japanese coming by the barn lately."

- additional reporting by Glenye Cain