12/02/2004 1:00AM

Badgett, 52, quits career as trainer

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The early mornings and long days are no longer enjoyable for horse trainer Billy Badgett. That's why Billy Badgett is no longer training horses.

After a 34-year career, during which he worked for a Hall of Fame trainer and developed a Hall of Fame filly, Badgett has given up training horses to become a bloodstock agent.

"The word 'burnout' from a trainer is unacceptable, but that's what's been happening," Badgett, 52, said Thursday morning in Belmont Park's track kitchen. "I've been getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning since 1970; it's a tough grind. I still have a tremendous passion for horses, and I'm going to continue to have that. I'm just going to put more of my energy in another direction right now."

Badgett and Louis Roussel III purchased five yearlings they hope to pin-hook next year at 2-year-old in training sales.

"I was lucky enough to have a gift of picking yearlings out at the sales, so I'm going to do that," Badgett said.

Badgett is the son of a jockey. He began working with horses in 1970, first as an assistant to Dominick Imperio, then Joe Cantey, and finally Hall of Famer Woody Stephens. Badgett was with Stephens for four of his record five consecutive Belmont Stakes victories.

Badgett went out on his own in 1985, and four years later he developed Go for Wand into the champion 2-year-old filly of 1989. In 1990, Go for Wand won seven of eight starts before suffering a fatal breakdown in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She was named champion that year as well.

"She did things that were so scary," Badgett said. "She had tremendous, tremendous class."

Badgett won 485 races from 3,315 starters. His horses earned $17,421,154. Over the years, however, Badgett's numbers declined. This year, he had just 13 winners from 115 starters.

"I let myself slide the last couple of years, which I shouldn't have done, so I got lesser-quality horses," Badgett said. "To compete at this level in New York you want to go to the barn looking forward to something to train everyday."

Timo, a multiple stakes winner on turf, was the only horse Badgett had that fit the bill. Timo, who won a pair of Grade 3 stakes this year, finished seventh in Sunday's Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He was Badgett's final starter. That horse has been turned over to Todd Pletcher.

Badgett said another reason for leaving training was to spend more time with his three children: daughter Brooke, 13, and sons Brandon, 11, and Brian, 9.

Badgett left the door open for a return to training in the future.

"I'm definitely not putting that out of the back of my mind," he said. "I love it so much, I just need a little break."

Roaring Fever unlike siblings

Roaring Fever is a full brother to graded stakes winners Raging Fever and Stormin Fever, but he is not as speed-oriented as those two were. That's one reason why trainer Mark Hennig believes Roaring Fever could have an upset chance in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County Handicap.

The Queens County is run at 1 3/16 miles, a distance at which Roaring Fever has yet to run. Roaring Fever is coming off a victory in the Alysheba Stakes, run at 1 1/16 miles at The Meadowlands.

"It seems like the farther we've run him the better he's gotten," Hennig said. "Maybe it'll help him. He's a little different than Raging and Stormin, he's not quite as speedy. He needs more of a set-up rather than being the one who sets the table, like Raging."

All three horses are by Storm Cat out of the dam Pennant Fever and were bred and owned by Edward Evans.

Bejarano starts fast on inner track

Many people believe Rafael Bejarano will be the leading rider here this winter, and he got off to an excellent start by winning three races on Thursday, opening day of the inner track.

Bejarano won the second aboard Tax Considerations ($6.30), the third with Credit Gal ($7.30), and dead-heated for win in the sixth with Goldfingerstouch ($6.50). Bejarano missed out on a fourth winner when Lavender Lass's late run fell a head short to favored Electrical Carlita in the featured eighth.

Aaron Gryder and apprentice Rajiv Maragh each won two races on the card.

* Alan Garcia took off his last two mounts on Thursday, complaining of light-headedness. His illness cost him a winner as replacement Norberto Arroyo guided Tax the Queen ($7.40) to victory in the sixth.

* Stewart Elliott, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on Smarty Jones, will leave Sunday for Hong Kong where he will represent the United States in an international jockey competition.

* Megascape, winner of the Grade 3 Valley Stream Stakes, worked four furlongs in 50 seconds Thursday morning over the Belmont training track. Megascape is being pointed to the $75,000 Ruthless Stakes on Jan. 2.