09/04/2008 11:00PM

Campo gets new start with Paraneck Stable

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Down to two horses and nearly out of the game, John Campo Jr. has apparently found a fresh start as he's become a private trainer for Paraneck Stable. Campo began working for Paraneck last month and ran his first horse for that outfit Friday when Run From Hell, a 57-1 shot, finished third in the ninth race at Belmont Park.

"I think it's a great opportunity," Campo, the 42-year-old son of the late trainer John Campo Sr., said Friday morning. "He's got some nice horses. I think it's a very good opportunity for myself at the end of the day to show people what I can really do with some nice horses."

Campo, the brother of NYRA racing secretary P.J. Campo, has been in the game his entire life, working for his dad - who trained 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony - and then Bill Badgett and Barclay Tagg. Campo has trained on his own since the mid-1980s and has won 79 races from 1,486 starters, according to Equibase statistics.

Campo becomes the latest in what has become a litany of trainers for Paraneck, which is headed by Ernie Paragallo, who serves as the stable agent for his daughters, who are listed as the owners. Paragallo said Campo and Joe DeMola, who will continue to train horses for Paraneck, will work as a team.

"I wanted a hands-on trainer, someone that knows what he's doing," Paragallo said. "I hadn't had that since Jen [Pedersen]. They told me John was a real good horseman, and from watching him the past 2 1/2 weeks, he knows his stuff."

Paragallo said Campo has 26 horses in his care at Aqueduct, but that he also will work with about 22 that will run under DeMola's name. Paragallo said he has approximately 28 2-year-olds that Campo will get.

Paragallo said he let Campo bring in some of his own people and that Paragallo himself "weeded out some bad apples" that previously worked for him.

"Without Ernie, I'd probably be out of business," Campo said. "I had a couple claimed from me this summer. All I had was two horses left; tough to make a living with just two horses."

Sunday, Campo will send out a pair of horses for Paraneck, including Wisdom Luck in a $15,000 claimer that goes as the third and Pink Viper in the $75,000 Devil Diver Stakes, which goes as the fourth. Pink Viper is a two-time stakes winner over Aqueduct's inner track, but has not run since getting beat 29 1/2 lengths in a third-level allowance at Aqueduct on March 7.

"He's doing very, very well," Campo said. "He's been working lights out his last few works since I've been here. Hopefully, the layoff did him some good. Hopefully, he'll perform well.''

Merchant Marine heads Devil Diver

Pink Viper will have to be at the top of his game to handle Merchant Marine in the Devil Diver at 7 1/2 furlongs. Merchant Marine returns to Belmont Park where he is 4 for 5. His only loss at Belmont came in the Grade 1 Suburban.

Though Merchant Marine ran sixth, beaten 15 lengths, in the Whitney at Saratoga, trainer Allen Jerkens entertained the idea of running him back against Curlin in the Woodward. Owner John Fort didn't want to do that.

Jerkens fears that the 7 1/2 furlongs may be too short for Merchant Marine, though the horse did win a second-level allowance going seven furlongs here in June. Asked why he felt Merchant Marine performed so well at Belmont, Jerkens said, "I think he likes the big, long backstretch where he doesn't have to get ready to go into a turn."

On Thursday, Merchant Marine worked a strong five furlongs in 59.57 seconds over the Belmont training track.

Other contenders in the Merchant Marine include Gold Trippi, second to Wanderin Boy in a seven-furlong allowance at Saratoga, and Silver Stetson Man, who drops out of a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar. This will be Silver Stetson Man's first start on a dirt surface.

Zaftig returns to work tab

Zaftig, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn on June 7, returned to the work tab Friday, breezing an easy three furlongs in 37.07 seconds over the Belmont Park training track. She has been sidelined since late June with a stress fracture in her left front foot.

"Went good," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "She should come to hand quick. She's a well-seasoned 3-year-old by now."

Zaftig was in excellent form at the time of her injury. She won the Grade 3 Nassau County in May and then came back to beat Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing by 4 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Acorn. She ran a mile in 1:34.50 that day and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 113, the highest by any 3-year-old of either gender this year.

Jerkens expects Zaftig to make it back to the races at some point this fall, but has no specific targets in mind.

Doremifasollatido will try turf

One of Jimmy Jerkens's top 2-year-old fillies, Doremifasollatido, will move from the dirt to the turf when she makes her next start in the $150,000 Miss Grillo Stakes here Sept. 28.

Doremifasollatido lost her debut on dirt by a neck before winning her second start by six lengths at Belmont on July 4. She stepped out of New York-bred maiden company to run in the Grade 2 Adirondack where she finished second, beaten seven lengths by Mani Bhavan, who came back to win the Grade 1 Spinaway.

"She might be a cut below the top 2-year-old fillies on dirt," Jerkens said. "She might be something special on turf."

Doremifasollatido is a half-sister to the graded turf stakes winner Fortunate Damsel. She worked four furlongs in 49.23 over the Saratoga training turf course on Aug. 29. On Friday, she worked seven furlongs in 1:29.03 over Belmont's training dirt track.

"She looks like she's bred for grass," Jerkens said. "She had a nice two-turn work this morning. After that driving from start finish race last time, she should be in a more settled mode for the Miss Grillo."

Diamondrella wins Positive Gal

Diamondrella, last of six turning for home, rallied four wide down the Widener turf course under Rajiv Maragh and outfinished favored Stormy West to win the $78,500 Positive Gal Stakes by three-quarters of a length before an opening-day crowd of 4,017 Friday at Belmont.

Diamondrella, a 4-year-old daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, won for the third straight time. She is owned by Castletop Stable and trained by Angel Penna Jr. Diamondrella covered six furlongs in 1:08.09 over firm ground and returned $6.40 as the second choice.

Diamondrella was one of two winners on the card for Maragh. Shaun Bridgmohan and Cornelio Velasquez also rode two winners.

* Ginger Punch, the defending Eclipse Award-winning older female, worked four furlongs in 47.64 seconds Friday morning over Belmont's main track. She is preparing for a start in the Grade 1 Beldame here Sept. 27.