02/16/2002 12:00AM

Aqueduct: Bridge-jumpers lose


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Just 24 hours after 2-5 shot Pleasant County finished out of the money and wiped out $396,410 in show bets at Gulfstream, Nice Boots Baby, who had $253,506 riding on her in the show pool from a total pool of $275,489, finished last as the 2-5 choice in Saturday's $80,750 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct.

The winner was Proper Gamble, the second choice in a field of five

3-year-old fillies, who had finished second behind Nice Boots Baby in the Jan. 6 Ruthless. This time Proper Gamble was making her second start back from a layoff, and she was able to duel Nice Boots Baby into defeat through the second quarter of the six-furlong sprint.

"She broke like a scalded cat," said winning rider Richard Migliore. "I had horse leaving the three-eighths pole. I knew I had Nice Boots Baby beat."

Proper Gamble returned $6.90 to win, $5.40 to place, and $14 to show. Runner-up Dancing Blues returned $11.80 and $45.80. Lost Expectations paid $53 to show.

Nice Boots Baby, trained by Tony Dutrow, broke slowest from the rail but quickly rushed up on the inside to take a short lead under Mario Pino, running the first quarter in 22.70 seconds under hot pursuit from Proper Gamble and Vesta.

Proper Gamble took over approaching the quarter pole to reach the lead after a half-mile in 45.26, and pulled away through the stretch while Nice Boots Baby steadily faded to fifth, suffering her first defeat.

Proper Gamble ran the six furlongs in 1:11.01 for her first stakes win. Her final margin was 3 1/4 lengths over Dancing Blues. It was a neck back to Lost Expectations, and another neck to fourth-place finisher Vesta.

John Hassett, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said that Proper Gamble may stretch out in the 1 1/16-mile Busher Stakes on March 2.