03/21/2002 12:00AM

After barn fire, right back in the game


JAMAICA, N.Y. - After losing 13 juveniles worth approximately $1.3 million in a barn fire last month, owner Carl Lizza would have been forgiven had he wanted to avoid any horse auctions for a while.

But as a man who has been in the game of Thoroughbred racing for several decades, Lizza has learned one thing.

"This game isn't for the faint of heart," said Lizza, who races under the name Flying Zee Stable and who co-owns Highcliff Farms in upstate New York. "I'm not in it for the money. If I was in it for the money, I'd get out."

Last Tuesday, Lizza was back at the sales, purchasing two horses out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select 2-year-old sale. Lizza, who attended the sales with one of his trainers, Phil Serpe, bought a colt by freshman sire Formal Gold for $220,000, the third-highest price of the sale. He also purchased a Mr. Greeley filly for $97,000.

"I think Phil had more trepidation than I did," said Lizza when asked if he was hesitant to return to the sales. "We figured we lost all those 2-year-olds maybe we'd get a couple of 2-year-olds to keep us in action in Saratoga and through the fall."

Lizza, whose program has consisted mostly of New York-breds, wanted to broaden his operation over the next few years. That is why he was active at many of the big sales last year, purchasing offspring of such stallions as Unbridled, Unbridled's Song, Grand Slam, Pleasant Colony, and Deputy Commander.

Tragically, 13 of the 17 horses he purchased died in a barn fire on Feb. 23 at Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud in Florida. Overall, 22 horses were killed in the fire, including kin to Evening Attire and Exogenous.

"We were trying to have a real balanced stable over the next couple of years, so it was devastating to us from that point of view," said Lizza, who also maintains horses in New York with trainers Carlos Martin and Luis Barrera. "For Phil and Carlos it was probably very upsetting."

Lizza said he almost didn't get the Formal Gold colt, who being out of the dam Rosedon (by Vice Regent) is a half-brother to Canadian Horse of the Year Benburb. The horse was consigned by Bobby Hurley's Devil Eleven Stable, which had purchased him for $25,000 as a yearling. Lizza bid up to $210,000, but Hurley bought him back for $220,000. Agent Robert Scanlon then convinced Hurley to sell him to Lizza for that price.

Lizza said he had to push Serpe into buying the Mr. Greeley filly, whose pedigree and conformation suggests more speed than stamina.

"She's nowhere near as strong or powerful as the colt we bought," Lizza said. "If you look at Xtra Heat you wouldn't buy her. This filly can motor. If she doesn't get hurt, she'll give a good account of herself."

Lizza still has four horses he purchased, including a Cryptoclearance colt and a Gentlemen filly. And, he intends to buy more at the sales this summer, having budgeted $1.2 million to spend each of the next two years.

Hennig-Kimmel to square off twice

Trainers Mark Hennig and John Kimmel, both of whom enjoyed successful winters at Gulfstream, will have runners in both of next week's stakes at Aqueduct.

With Aqueduct dark on Easter Sunday (March 31), the Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Handicap will be run two days earlier. Hennig is expected to send out the coupled entry of Unrestrained and With Ability against the Kimmel-trained Diversa.

Others under consideration are Irving's Baby, Pocus Hocus, Transcendental, and Zonk.

On March 30, Hennig and Kimmel will have major players in the $150,000, Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at seven furlongs. Hennig will send out Raging Fever, winner of the First Lady Handicap at Gulfstream two starts back, while Kimmel sends out La Galerie, a sharp winner of two allowance races over the inner track.

Others expected to run are Cat Cay, who beat Raging Fever by a neck in the Shirley Jones Handicap on Feb. 15; Prized Stamp, runner-up to Xtra Heat in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park; and Shiny Band. Flashing Lil and Madame Roar are possible.

Lezcano begins suspension Friday

Lorenzo Lezcano, who became the first apprentice rider since 1994 to win a New York riding title, was to begin serving a 20-day suspension Friday. He will be eligible to ride again on April 11.

When Lezcano returns, he will be a journeyman, having lost his apprentice status on Thursday. Lezcano did not ride Thursday; he called in sick with flu-like symptoms. Lezcano will be serving a pair of careless riding suspensions from incidents on Dec. 21 and 29 at Aqueduct.

In other jockey news, Richard Migliore took off his four mounts Thursday because of a sore shoulder collarbone. He aggravated his shoulder in Wednesday's opener when he was unseated by Emily's Pleasure, who broke down during the running of the race, run over a sloppy track. The remaining eight races were canceled.

Migliore was expected to return Friday, according to his agent Drew Mollica.

* There was one winning $1 ticket sold on the last-race superfecta Thursday, which returned $106,964. The ticket, sold at Tampa Bay Downs, had the combination 8-11-4-3, consisting of Remember Brian (17-1), Cosmic Green (108-1), Sea of Hope (13-1), and Lady Commando (5-1). Irrepressible Joy, the 1-2 favorite, finished fifth.