08/01/2001 11:00PM

From $5,000 tag to stakes


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Quixote's Hope was at the lowest point of her career, running in $5,000 claiming races at Philadelphia Park at the beginning of the year. It was a far cry from her early career success.

But Quixote's Hope has come a long way since January: She is set to run in Sunday's $75,000 Lady's Secret Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile and 70 yards, part of the Haskell Invitational undercard.

Quixote's Hope, a 5-year-old mare, has become quite a racing tale. Trained by Patricia Farro and owned by Gary Mottola, Quixote's Hope had run in stakes and allowance races early in her career but was plagued by health and behavior problems. She was a terrible bleeder and an angry horse, who would kick and bite when anyone came near. By January, she had been consigned to the doldrums of racing, running for nickel claimers at Philly Park.

She finished second in a $5,000 race in January and won a race under the same conditions 11 days later. Quixote's Hope then scored in a $7,500 claimer at Philly and showed up next on March 17 at Aqueduct for a $12,500 claiming race. That race was the one that sparked her turnaround.

"She went to the paddock that day like a little baby," Farro said. "I had never seen her like that; she was a possessed horse. She went out that day and ran the race of her life."

Quixote's Hope won the Aqueduct race by 13 3/4 lengths and earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure. She was ridden for the first time that day by apprentice Jorge Duarte Jr.

Quixote's Hope has not lost since finishing second in a two-other-than allowance in her first start of the Monmouth meet on June 2. Since that race, she has won two starts by more than 14 combined lengths. Duarte was aboard in those two races, as he has been since the Aqueduct win.

"[Duarte] doesn't try to tell her to do something," said Farro. "He doesn't hit her much, but if he does, he doesn't hit her hard. She is a very sensitive filly, and she ties up with a new rider. She has just clicked with Jorge."

Although the connections of Quixote's Hope are hoping she runs well in the Lady's Secret against her toughest competition to date, they are just happy with how far she has come.

"I hope we're not dreaming," Farro said about her chances in the Lady's Secret.

Perkins runs two in Colleen

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. will start two of his top 2-year-old fillies in Saturday's $50,000 Colleen Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs. Both have an opportunity to become early favorites for the Grade 3 Sorority, Monmouth's premier race for juvenile fillies.

Al Max Diner, an $80,000 daughter of End Sweep owned by Raymond Dweck, was the most impressive maiden filly winner so far this meet. She covered five furlongs in 58.55 seconds in her career debut on July 11, and earned a 77 Beyer Speed Figure. Her stablemate, Forest Heiress, owned by New Farm, ran more than a second slower than Al Max Diner in winning her debut by a nose.

"They're both doing well," Perkins said, "and they run for separate interests. It's a good place to find out what we have."

In last week's Tyro, the colt equivalent of the Colleen, Calder invader Pure Precision debuted for trainer John Tammaro with an impressive win. Another Calder invader, Carson's Baby, enters the Colleen off a runaway maiden win for trainer Leo Azpurua Jr.

Ghost Wrestling, second as the even-money favorite in the Fashion Stakes, ships in for Mark Hennig. Sally's Forum, Hansel's Annie Gal, Numerous Kidz, and Piano Chimes complete the field.

* James Cassidy named Corey Nakatani to ride Jamaican Rum in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Haskell Invitational Sunday. Jamaican Rum had been ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye in his five previous starts.