The world's largest horseshoe maker is hoping President Bush will pitch the backyard sport into the American consciousness and boost its sales the way his predecessor helped the jelly bean industry.

The first 100 days of the horseshoe-happy president have brought smiles to the St. Pierre Manufacturing Co., a second-generation factory begun by an amateur inventor more than a half-century ago."It's so crazy, just the fact that Bush's playing horseshoes has an impact on this industry," said Edward St. Pierre, 47, treasurer and son of the founder.

Although it's too early to tell how big the impact the White House and Camp David courts will have on the sport, St. Pierre said he has a hint from early orders this will be the company's best year yet.

The family is secretive about exactly how many shoes they sell, saying only that they ship thousands of shoe-and-stake kits yearly. But the president of the National Horseshoe Pitcher's Assocation supports their claim of being the largest pitching-shoe maker in the world.

The company's shoes were flung by the chief executive in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated and St. Pierre believes he saw his top-line model at the April Fool's Day televised inauguration of the horseshoe pit Bush installed next to the White House swimming pool.

He is the proud possessor of a presidential letter dated Election Day. "Thank you very much for sending me the great pitching horseshoes," the Bush letter says. "Needless to say, the gift will get a lot of use."

Historians say the conquering Norman soldiers brought the game to England in the 11th century and early settlers brought it to America.

The game requires only two horseshoes per player and two stakes 40 feet apart. Players take turns throwing shoes, and those that encircle the stakes are "ringers," earning three points. The shoe that lands closest to the stake earns one point. Thus came the maxim, "Close only counts in horseshoes."

"When people first started pitching, they would use whatever discarded old shoe Dobbin threw off," said company Marketing Director Nanette St. Pierre, 44, sister of Edward and two other brothers in the family business.

Bush, an NHPA member, is a better-than-average player, said association secretary Don Roberts. "He averages 25 percent ringers. That's not too bad."