12/18/2001 1:00AM

Waya, champion mare, dead


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Waya, champion older mare of 1979, was euthanized on Dec. 12 in Pennsylvania because of complications from laminitis, a representative of Derry Meeting Farm confirmed Tuesday. She was 27.

Waya had lived at Derry Meeting in Cochranville, Pa., since her retirement from racing in 1980. She had been pensioned from breeding since 1998.

Daniel Wildenstein bred Waya (Faraway Son-War Path, by Blue Prince) in France, where she made her racing debut at 3. She won three races there, including the Group 2 Prix de l'Opera and the Group 3 Prix de Royaumont, before Wildenstein sent her to the United States for her 4-year-old season.

Waya won six of nine starts in 1978, impressively beating males twice in Grade 1 events: by 1 3/4 lengths in the Man o' War and by a nose in the Turf Classic. But one of the vanquished colts, Man o' War third Mac Diarmida, came back to win Waya's final race of the season, the Washington D. C. International, and clinch the turf title. Waya, third in the D. C. International, received no award, as the Eclipses at the time did not include a division for female turf runners.

Her situation undoubtedly made a difference to the Eclipse Award committee of the time, because the following year inaugurated the female turf division.

Wildenstein privately sold Waya to George Strawbridge and Peter Brant in 1978. In February 1979, she launched a 12-race campaign that finally brought her an Eclipse Award as top older female. That year she won the Grade 1 Santa Barbara, Top Flight, and Beldame; the Grade 3 Saratoga Springs Cup; and the ungraded Santa Ana Handicap.

She retired at the end of the season with a lifetime record of 29-14-6-4 and earnings of $822,816.

Waya's best foals are Grade 3 winner De Niro, Italian group winner Vidalia, stakes-winner Sofitina, and stakes-placed Rage.

"She was a bossy mare, and she liked to be by herself," said Robert Goodyear, who has managed Derry Meeting for Bettina Jenney and her late husband, Marshall, for 30 years. "When you gave her a shot, she'd squeal. That was Waya.

"You could see in her eye that she was a great race filly. She had a big, bright eye. She had plenty of bone and she was straight, and all her foals were straight. You could look at them and see the class."