02/11/2008 1:00AM

Barrier Reef gets 'promotion'


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Barrier Reef, winner of the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 2, has been transferred from Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable to his Godolphin Racing operation and was to have shipped from New York to Payson Park in Florida on Tuesday.

Barrier Reef will remain in the United States and be trained by Rick Mettee, Godolphin's American-based assistant to Saeed bin Suroor. Tom Albertrani was Barrier Reef's previous trainer.

"This is part of our program - this is a promotion," said Jim Bell, president of Darley USA. "At Darley, we're trying to identify and develop horses for Godolphin. With the race he ran last time out, that was enough to do that. We hope he's able to add to that and continue to climb the ladder."

Barrier Reef, a son of Mizzen Mast, was not among the original 449 nominees to the Triple Crown, but can be nominated to the three-race series for a fee of $6,000 by March 29. He will most likely make one more start before then, though where and when that race will be has yet to be determined.

Albertrani, who won the 2006 Preakness for Darley with Bernardini, said he was not surprised or upset about the decision to transfer Barrier Reef. Last year, Albertrani had several 2-year-olds for Darley that were transferred to Godolphin, including Numaany, who is scheduled to run in Thursday's UAE 2000 Guineas in Dubai.

"After [Barrier Reef] broke his maiden, we discussed the possibility about the horse being transferred at that time and maybe even going over to Dubai," Albertrani said Monday. "The decision was made that maybe it was better for the horse to stay and get a little more seasoning before making a journey like that."

Barrier Reef ran in the Count Fleet on Jan. 5, where he finished fourth, before bouncing back with a gritty half-length victory over Roman Emperor in the $109,000 Whirlaway, his second win from four career starts.

Romans targeting Aqueduct stakes

Hopeful that a franchise agreement will be reached and that Aqueduct will be open next month, trainer Dale Romans is eyeing graded events here for two of his recent south Florida stakes winners.

Romans wants to run Swale winner Eaton's Gift in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes here March 8 and Sunshine Millions Oaks winner American County in the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes on March 15.

Eaton's Gift won the Grade 2 Swale by 3 1/2 lengths on Feb. 2, bouncing back from a seventh-place finish in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last December. Romans said he wants to give Eaton's Gift another chance around two turns and deemed the Gotham the most appropriate place to try.

"It makes sense to go a mile and a sixteenth with him right now; the inner track can carry some speed, and it's becoming a problem to keep these Zayat horses separated," said Romans, referring to owner Ahmed Zayat, who also owns Z Fortune, Z Humor, and Alaazo. "They have so many talented 3-year-olds, we have to work on keeping them apart."

Romans said he was impressed with Eaton's Gift's performance in the Swale, a race in which he earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He galloped out real strong," Romans said. "With a fast 3-year-old, you got to give him a chance to run long this time of year."

With limited graded opportunities for 3-year-old filly sprinters, Romans felt the Grade 3, $100,000 Cicada was a good target race for the speedy American County. She is coming off a front-running 1 1/4-length victory in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at six furlongs on Jan. 26.

"It looks like a real good spot with the timing and everything to go give it a shot," Romans said. "She came out of the race real good, came back and worked the other morning. We didn't ask her for a whole lot, but she looked good doing it."

Pino joining local jockey colony

Provided there is racing at Aqueduct come Saturday, Mario Pino will join the jockey colony here that day.

Pino, who last fall became the 15th jockey to reach the 6,000-win plateau, will ride first call for trainer David Jacobson, who through Sunday was tied for fourth in the trainer standings at this meet with 17 wins. Pino is represented by Bill Castle, whose father, Jerome, gave Jacobson horses to train more than 25 years ago.

"He's one of the great riders," Jacobson said. "To hook up with someone like that is an honor. Not that I'm not happy with the riders I'm using now, but I also have a long-term relationship going back over 25 years with the Castle family. Jerome Castle, Bill's father, gave me my first opportunity. It goes back a long time."

Pino, 46, has been riding regularly on the Maryland/Delaware circuit for most of his career. With 6,030 career victories, Pino will soon pass Johnny Longden (6,032) for 14th place on the all-time wins list.

It is expected that Pino will ride in New York until Delaware Park opens its meet April 19.