Luzzi's first bite of Big Apple has been much sweeter than Prado's

February 20, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Don't expect to see Mike Luzzi returning to ride in Maryland on a full-time basis any time soon.

The 24-year-old jockey, who began his career five years ago on the local circuit, has caught on in New York and is in a heated three-way battle for the leading rider's title at Aqueduct.

At the end of last week, Luzzi was tied for second with John Velasquez at 21 wins each, one victory behind the leader, Richard Migliore.

Meanwhile, Edgar Prado, Maryland's leading jockey for the past couple of years who also began riding in New York this winter, has not fared as well. He is tied for eighth place and probably will return to ride on a regular basis at Pimlico Race Course when the spring meet starts on March 29.

Luzzi, who was the leading stakes rider last year in Maryland, has won four added-money races at Aqueduct. His stakes wins came aboard Groovy Feeling (Woodhaven Stakes, Jan. 9 and Rare Treat Handicap, Feb. 13), Secret Odds (Paumonok Handicap, Jan. 12) and Sunny's Bruno (Count Fleet Stakes, Jan. 22).

Prado has not won a stakes at Aqueduct. He finished out of the money yesterday aboard the second choice, Strikany, in the Coaltown Stakes.

Luzzi said that although he had not made a final decision, "My agent and I have been talking it over, and I think I'll stay here, at least through the spring meet [which ends May 2]. Of course, it gets tougher when the big-name jockeys like Mike Smith and Jerry Bailey come back from Florida. But more horses come back, too.

"I got lucky from the first day I rode here. I won on my first mount [Tell Margie] and from there on in, everything pretty much fell into place."

Luzzi moved to Aqueduct about two weeks ahead of Prado last December and hired a New York agent, Chuck Delpreto, who once handled Migliore and Cash Asmussen.

Prado retained his Maryland agent, Steve Rushing. Prado, too, said he hasn't made a final decision about returning to Maryland. "But I'm pretty sure I will," he said. "My family is there and living here is a lot different." Unlike Luzzi, who is married but has no children, Prado has a young son.

Prado leaves at the end of the week to spend 10 days riding in Japan as part of an international jockeys' challenge. "I'll make up mind [about returning to Maryland] when I get back from Japan," he said.

Both Luzzi and Prado will be in action tomorrow on the Presidents Day card at Laurel Race Course.

Luzzi rides Jest Punching for trainer Gary Capuano in the $200,000 General George Stakes and Prado has the mount on Chief Desire for New York trainer Gasper Moschera.

Dark secret

Maryland-based Triple Crown hopeful Can't Be Denied has had a recent adjustment to his training schedule.

Carlos Garcia, who conditions the undefeated colt, said he has started sending the horse to the track before daybreak to get him accustomed to the dark.

Why?

The horse's next start comes on March 4 in the $50,000 Cherry Hill Mile on a Friday night card at Garden State Park.

"It's a Grade III race and I thought it was run on a Saturday afternoon," Garcia said. But then he did some checking and discovered the race will be run at night under the lights.

As a precaution, Garcia thought he better acclimate the horse to the dark.

Garcia said the horse's owners, the Helmore Racing Partnerships, are receiving some big offers to sell the horse. "But we want to try him around two turns first. The Garden State race is at a flat mile around two turns," he said.

Dale Lucas, who heads the partnership, purchased the horse as an unraced 2-year-old for the group for $35,000. He is not the only Maryland horseman who has been involved with the colt. He was originally purchased at the Keeneland (Ky.) fall sales as a yearling by local trainer Charlie Castrenze and Herman Braude for $2,700. Castrenze, in turn, sold him to Lucas.

"So far, this is one horse everyone has made money on," Braude said.

Can't Be Denied's record is 3-0 and he won his first added-money race, the Dancing Count Stakes, at Laurel two weeks ago.

Another Maryland-based Triple Crown hopeful, Popol's Gold, is expected to run March 5 at Aqueduct in the $100,000 Bay Shore Stakes, according to his trainer, Billy Turner.

Who's in charge here?

Jim Mango, senior vice president of development and pari-mutuels at Laurel/Pimlico, said he was disturbed when he picked up The Sun last Friday morning and read that Laurel/Pimlico general manager John E. Mooney, also a senior vice president, said there would be changes in many departments "as we go along."

Mooney was commenting on the hiring of Jimmy Havens as the new starter and other possible personnel changes due to management re-structuring since Joe De Francis now owns both tracks.

But "there won't be changes in my three departments," Mango said. "I'm proud of the staff I have."

What exactly are Mango's departments? "Pari-mutuels, off-track betting sites and all simulcast operations," he said.

What is Mooney in charge of?

"The entire operation," Mooney said.

Somebody better tell Mango.

Fillies better than colts

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