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Saturday, June 30, 2012


BELMONT PARK NOTES: Friday, June 29, 2012


ELMONT, N.Y. - Baby J debuted a half-length winner on Thursday at Belmont Park for retired jockey Juvenal Diaz, but if all goes according to plan the filly will soon carrying somebody else’s colors, the former rider said on Friday.

“I never keep them,” said Diaz. “If I do keep one, it’s because I can’t sell them!”


On Thursday, Baby J took the lead a sixteenth of a mile into the race, repelled a pair of challengers nearing the quarter pole, and was driven home by jockey Junior Alvarado to hold off a late bid from Seasoned Warrior. Baby J became the first winner for her freshman sire, 2008 Grade 2 Woody Stephens victor J Be K.

Diaz, who rode Meadowlake and Black Tie Affair and won 3,164 races while riding primarily in the Chicago area, bought Two Item Limit for $20,000 as a yearling in 1999 before selling her for $50,000 at auction the following spring. Two Item Limit went on to win three graded stakes, place in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and two other Grade 1 races, and earn a shade over $1 million.

After purchasing Blind Luck for $11,000 at a yearling sale in 2008, Diaz sold the filly privately following her 13 ¼-length debut win against claimers at Calder Race Course. Blind Luck later became 2010’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly after winning races such as the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama and earned $3.2 million over the course of her three-year career.

To stay within his budget while scouting horses at auctions, Diaz said he focuses on horses who are athletic instead of horses with top pedigrees or who have perfect conformation, with Baby J being a perfect example.

“[Baby J is] a very athletic, racy filly,” said Diaz. “She’s very fluid and nice moving. That’s the kind of horse I try to buy. Blind Luck was the same way, but she was on the smaller side and was very gangly when I bought her. Baby J was more mature and she always trained forwardly. She was ready before I ever breezed her.”

Diaz said he hoped to sell Baby J for $70,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Florida sale in March, but she failed to meet her reserve when the bidding stopped at $65,000.

“She worked awfully good and had one of the best gallop outs (video), but the buyers didn’t like her conformation, so they walked,” said Diaz. “They want them to look like a model, but she didn’t.”

Following the auction, Diaz placed Baby J with trainer Michelle Nihei. The retired rider said Nihei worked tirelessly to help Baby J overcome her fear of the starting gate, and for that he hopes the filly’s new owner, whoever it may be, will keep her in Nihei’s barn.

“I got a lot of calls [after the race], and I hope I can sell her to somebody who will keep her with Michelle because she put a lot of work into her,” said Diaz. “She was scared to go into the gate, so we schooled her at the gate almost every day. She had always trained the way you’d like to see them train, but you never know until they actually race.”

* * *

A stellar field is expected to assemble next Saturday for the 127th running of the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap including Stay Thirsty, second to the front-running Trickmeister in the Vanlandingham on May 17.

Stay Thirsty, who last year earned more than $1.3 million for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher in winning the Grade 1 Travers, the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and the Grade 3 Gotham, tuned up for the 1 1/8-mile race on Monday, covering five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.05 on the Belmont Park training track.

“He came out of the work well; he’s sharp right now,” said Pletcher’s assistant, Michael McCarthy, of Stay Thirsty, who was making his 4-year-old debut in the 1 1-16-mile Vanlandingham.

According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, also expected for the Suburban are Buffum, eight-length winner of an optional claimer in his 2012 debut, for which he received a lifetime best Beyer Speed Figure of 105; 2012 Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Hymn Book, fifth after an eventful trip in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special last time out; Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Mucho Macho Man, most recently third in the Grade 2 Alysheba; Rogue Romance, fourth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on June 16, and To Honor and Serve, who earned a career-best 109 Beyer finishing third to Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse in the Grade 1 Met Mile on Memorial Day.

* * *

Undefeated Agave Kiss will likely head the field for the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride, which shares the card with the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7. Among the 3-year-old fillies lining up against her will be Aubby K, most recently third to Contested in the Grade 1 Acorn; Emma’s Encore, second in optional claimer on May 16 last time out; Grade 2 Beaumont winner Gypsy Robin, a four-length winner of the Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs on May 15; Jamaican Smoke, who is making her stakes debut; Millionreasonswhy, most recently second to Agave Kiss in the Miss Preakness at Pimlico on May 18; Silverette, also stepping into stakes company for the first time, and Tu Endie Wei, winner of last year’s Ontario Debutante and My Dear stakes at Woodbine. Jamaican Smoke’s stablemate Ullapool is questionable.


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