09/04/2002 11:00PM

From the backyard to Saratoga

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SALEM, N.H. - Even though Danielle's Magic will be looking for his first victory of the year in an allowance race Saturday at Rockingham Park, he is already considered a big winner by his owner-trainer, Jennifer Hayford.

Hayford will proudly tell you Danielle's Magic was bred and foaled in her backyard, literally, and that the 3-year-old colt is named after Hayford's daughter. Danielle's Magic has gone from being a family pet who couldn't attract buyers at $2,500 to racing in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga.

"To tell the truth, things were so tight I really needed to sell him but I couldn't find anyone to take him because he's so small," said Hayford. "There were days where I wasn't sure how we were going to feed ourselves. To be there at Saratoga in a Grade 1 was amazing."

Hayford, a 40-year-old native of Great Barrington, Mass., has been involved in horse racing her whole life. She was on the road to success as a jockey when an injury ruined her knee. The ensuing surgeries sapped her bank account - and ended her career as a rider. She settled in Florida and was working in the breeding industry when she took a chance and spent her last dollar to pinhook her way to a slight profit and control of Glory City, the dam of Danielle's Magic.

When Danielle's Magic, a son of Magic Rascal, didn't attract any buyers as a yearling, Hayford was forced to train him herself. He's made $67,000 in 15 races.

"He just never got tall, but everyone who sees him can tell you what a handsome horse he is," said Hayford. "We've gotten plenty of offers now, but I don't think we'd ever give him up. I can't imagine going to the barn now and not seeing him."

Since Danielle's Magic is 0 for 8 this year and is still eligible for a third-level allowance race, some say Hayford and her husband, Martin Marquez, were too ambitious campaigning him in five stakes. But there's no pressure to win on this onetime family pet. And you can't knock his two close calls in his last three races and his excuse-filled trips at Saratoga.

"The wet track just sucked the shoes right off him in that race," said Hayford of Danielle's Magic's sixth-place finish in the King's Bishop. "He was plugging along and you can see right when it happened."

Regardless of how the colt performs on Saturday, he is being pointed for the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap Oct. 12.