02/28/2002 12:00AM

You're a good sire, Cee's Tizzy

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Six years ago, Carl and Olivia Cannata sold a Cee's Tizzy filly at the 1996 Del Mar Yearling Sale for the modest sum of $3,500.

It was hardly the sort of transaction that would attract attention from anyone other than the buyer, seller, and underbidder.

Little did the Cannatas know that the filly would provide the farm with an important chapter in its history, and provide it with substantial income through breeders' awards for years.

The filly was later named Gourmet Girl, and earlier this week was retired at the height of her career. The 7-year-old Gourmet Girl won 9 of 33 starts and $1,255,373. On Feb. 18, she was honored with the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding older female of 2001.

The Eclipse Award achievement was a milestone for the Cannatas, who operate Lakeview Thoroughbred Farm in Lakeview, Calif., about 90 minutes east of Santa Anita.

"The ones you think are not the better ones turn out to be," Olivia Cannata said, philosophically. "You can't help but have all the dreams and think, I should have her. It's all a matter of chance.

"We picked seven yearlings to sell, and we had only 9 or 10 that year. We put them in the select sale and decided to let them go.

"That's part of this business, getting them into other people's hands. She does well for us in breeders' awards, but not as well as she does for her owner."

Gourmet Girl is also part of another chapter in California breeding history.

Her sire, Cee's Tizzy, was represented by two champions in 2001. The other was Tiznow, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic last October for the second consecutive year, who was named outstanding older male. In 2000, he was Horse of the Year and outstanding 3-year-old.

Gourmet Girl and Tiznow put Cee's Tizzy in elite company. The 15-year-old Cee's Tizzy joined Alydar, Deputy Minister, Irish River, and Seeking the Gold as the only stallions with two Eclipse Award champions in the same year, since 1988.

Cee's Tizzy finished 2001 ranked seventh on the general sires list and was the only California-bred in the top 30.

Cee's Tizzy stands for $15,000 at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif. He will be bred to more than 100 mares this year, according to farm manager David McGlothlin.

"It's pretty remarkable what the horse has done," McGlothlin said. "Across the board, there doesn't seem to be one cross among the mares that is the silver bullet. The stakes horses he sired come from all pedigrees."

In recent years, the Cannatas have largely cut their ties with Gourmet Girl and her dam, Rhondaling, who was stakes-placed in Ireland and North America in the late 1980's.

Rhondaling provided the Cannatas with two stakes winners, although the first, Candelotto, is better known for his durable 59-race career than his victory in the minor Eel River Sprint Stakes.

"We didn't think Candelotto would be much racehorse," Olivia Cannata said. "He was gray and so beautiful that show horse people would buy him."

The Cannatas sold Rhondaling at the 2000 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for $150,000 while in foal to Wild Again. Last August, the Cannatas sent a filly out of Rhondaling back to the Del Mar Sale. This time, the price was more what they expected. The filly, by Memo, sold for $150,000.

"She is beautiful," Olivia Cannata bragged.

The couple still has a 5-year-old half-sister to Gourmet Girl named Rhondelle, who has not won in nine starts.

The Cannatas were able to closely follow Gourmet Girl through her racing career since many of her starts were at Southern California tracks. The couple live in the San Fernando Valley, but spend many weekends at their farm, which stands eight stallions. The 160-acre farm is centrally located within 90 minutes of the three major Southern California tracks.

Gourmet Girl started throughout California in 2001. She won the Sacramento Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in March, but her wins in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park and the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park carried her to the title. In what was her final career start, she finished second to Tranquility Lake in the Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 5.

A split-bone injury cost her a start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last fall. She was in training at Hollywood Park with Pico Perdomo preparing for a spring campaign when owner Gary Tanaka announced her retirement last Monday.

While the Cannatas have enjoyed the success of Gourmet Girl, they have remained busy at their farm. Although they have bred in Kentucky in recent years, they are currently concentrating on breeding in California.

"This year, they are all out here," Olivia Cannata said. "We did own a share in Affirmed and have a couple of mares by Affirmed who I think will be wonderful broodmares. We seem to have a lot of young mares."

The farm stands eight stallions - Bartok, Category Five, Huckster, Oly Ogy, Stage Colony, Surachai, Truckee, and Vernon Castle.

"We're very busy. We've had 24 babies so far," Olivia Cannata said. "That's a lot for this time of year. We don't try to be a huge farm. We want to turn them out in grass paddocks and not into small paddocks. We have 160 acres, and we use pretty much all of it. We give a lot of personalized attention."

The approach must work. Gourmet Girl is living proof.