05/14/2004 11:00PM

Blinkers do trick for Formal Miss


MIAMI - Former jockey Gary Donahue, who along with his father, John, owns a share of Formal Miss, couldn't wait for Saturday's $40,000 Liberada Handicap.

"I've been waiting to run this horse in blinkers for a year," said Donahue.

The wait proved well worth it.

Despite getting shuffled back approaching the far turn, Formal Miss, racing in blinkers for the first time, finished full of run down the middle of the track to register a 1 3/4-length victory over 2-1 favorite Improvised in the 1 1/16-mile Liberada. Sweettrickydancer, who rallied to the lead in early stretch, faltered late and finished third.

Formal Miss, a 4-year-old daughter of Formal Dinner, was a two-time stakes winner at 3 but had been winless since capturing the Judy's Red Shoes here in early September. In her previous start, Formal Miss raced well placed but finished an even fifth against tougher opposition in the Hollywood Wildcat Breeders' Cup on May 1.

Trained by Paul Maxwell, Formal Miss paid $7 after covering the distance in 1:40.57 seconds over a firm course. The victory improved her career earnings to $277,000.

Improvised had a streak of seven straight first-place finishes coming into the Liberada. Each of those races came during the 2003-04 Tampa Bay meeting. She lost one of those victories as a result of a disqualification.

Morales named jock of the month

Seldom-used jockey Carlos Morales, who gave Mr. Livingston a picture-perfect ride en route to an easy victory on May 8 in the Carterista Handicap, has been named jockey of the month at Calder.

A native of Panama, Morales began his career in south Florida in 1989 by winning with the first mount he accepted, La Favorita, at Hialeah. He rode in California for Hall of Fame trainer Laz Barrera, then spent time on several circuits - most recently in the mid-Atlantic region at Delaware and Penn National - before deciding to return to Florida.

"He rode for me in the mid-90's and won a lot of races," said William Kaplan, who trains Mr. Livingston. "He's probably the most underrated jockey out here."

Castro rebounds to lead standings

Eddie Castro, who struggled through the Gulfstream Park meeting following his Eclipse Award-winning apprentice season, is back in top form. He held a comfortable lead in the jockey standings through the first three weeks of the long Calder summer session.

Manoel Cruz, who dominated the standings here last summer, had gotten off to a slow start with only five victories from his first 73 mounts. He turned in a hat trick on Friday, however, serving notice he is ready to move up the charts.