Breeders in search of winning potential

Studs: At a Cecil County farm, 500 look for a stallion with the genes to produce a Triple Crown contender.

January 18, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

CHESAPEAKE CITY -- They pranced out of the stable at Northview Stallion Station one by one, showing off glossy coats, million-dollar legs and blue-chip pedigrees.

It was kind of a beauty contest without the crown.

More than 500 thoroughbred horse breeders from the East Coast turned up yesterday at this Cecil County farm to decide whether to pay up to $25,000 to mate their mares with any one of eight stallions that are each worth at least $15 million.

They studied each of the featured horses to find the special quality that, when combined with the attributes of their mares, would make a winner at the track.

Good hips, shapely legs and a deep slope in the shoulder mean a longer stride -- and a fast horse.

"If you have a mare with small feet, then you're going to be focusing on a stallion's foot," said Richard Golden, one of Northview's owners.

What goes into a Triple Crown winner was foremost on the minds of the breeders who gathered at Northview for the farm's first stallion show and to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

"We wanted to dispel the stigma that Northview Stallion was for just a select group of people," said David Hayden, a breeder who helped plan the show. "We thought that people felt afraid to call here -- or that their mares were not good enough. Good racehorses can come from modest mares."

Once owned by a Canadian businessman and called Windfields Farm, Northview was home to Northern Dancer, a stallion that one breeder referred to as "the sire of all sires." Northern Dancer, a winner of the Preakness and Kentucky Derby whose stud fee was $1 million, was retired in the late 1980s, shortly before Golden and two partners bought the farm.

After lunching under a white tent on eggs Benedict, chocolate-covered strawberries and mimosas, the breeders eyed the talent as handlers paraded each horse by on a grassy area before them -- Polish Numbers, Concern, Not for Love and five others.

There was Partner's Hero, a new addition to the stable described by Thomas Bowman, another of the farm's owners, as a "sound horse with tremendous speed."

The stud fee: $7,500.

Then there was Two Punch, a gray stallion with a "checkered past," Bowman announced.

"One year, he will blow the barn doors down," Bowman said by way of explanation. "But the next year he won't. But we are sure that this year, and next, will be spectacular.

His fee: $20,000.

Susan Turner, who drove two hours from Delaware, had her mind set on a less expensive model.

"I'm dying to see Awad," said Turner, who was looking for a stallion to pair with her mare, Double Delve.

Turner said she is a student of breeding and wants to cancel out some "genetic flaws, or what I consider genetic flaws" in Double Delve.

That is what is known as "confirmation" in the horse business. It is the beauty contest part.

If Turner decides on Awad, it will cost her $3,500.

Fees are determined by how well a stallion's offspring performs, Hayden said.

Six years ago, for example, the fee for Northview's Polish Numbers was $3,500, he said. But that was before the stallion sired 17 stakes winners and became the leading sire in the mid-Atlantic region. Today, he will cost a breeder $25,000.

What ultimately determines speed -- the key to a winner -- remains a mystery.

"You breed the best with the best and hope for the best," said Frank Wright, a breeder from Hampstead who was looking for an appropriate mate for one of his 17 mares at Huntingfields Farm in Carroll County.

"Despite everything, you can end up with a horse whose heart is just not in it," Wright said.

Pub Date: 1/18/99

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