06/13/2006 11:00PM

Cox debuts in stakes marathon


MIAMI- Arienne Cox picked a most unlikely spot to begin her riding career, going 1 1/2 miles in last Saturday's New York New York Stakes at Calder.

But then again, Cox is not your typical jockey. A 29-year-old rookie, Cox has earned master's degrees from Nova Southeastern and Florida State universities in both nursing and business management. She has held a trainer's license for the last 11 years, owns her own horses, and tips the scales at 120 pounds.

Cox did not win with her first mount but she did do a very professional job of guiding Blue Mon, a 6-year-old gelding who had finished second in a bottom-level conditioned claiming race just eight days earlier, to a third-place finish after the grueling 12 furlongs of the New York New York.

"My boyfriend, Wayne Rice, who is a former jockey himself, told me I have to be the first girl in history to ever ride her first race in a stakes going a mile and one-half," Cox said at her barn on Tuesday. "And finish on the board."

Cox had originally named jockey Andry Blanco on Blue Mon when she entered her horse for the New York New York. She did not learn she would be allowed to ride herself until the morning of the race.

"I didn't get my jockey's license until Saturday morning," Cox said. "To do that I had to first be approved out of the gate by the starter. I also got a few recommendations from some of other riders who've seen me out on the track saying I could handle myself on a horse so I'd be granted permission to make my first start going a mile and one-half."

Charlie Camac, an association steward at Calder, said that although what Cox was asking to do was unusual, the stewards saw no reason not to allow her to participate in the New York New York once her license application was approved.

"You can see just by looking at her that she's as fit as anyone out there," said Camac. "We also knew she'd been riding horses and breaking out of the gate for years and could handle herself out on the racetrack. There is no rule in the books that says a trainer can't ride their own horse in a race, so once Arienne got approved out of the gate there was no reason not to let her ride the stakes. And because she's not an apprentice, she was allowed to carry a stick on her first mount, which bug riders are not."

Cox said she would love to ride races full time but isn't about to begin pursuing a riding career at this point in her life.

"Riding is my passion, and I would pay money to be able to ride races regularly," Cox said. "But I'm also not going to torture myself trying to lose weight to do it. I have three horses here at the track right now and another dozen that can be shuttled in from the farm in Ocala. If I can get the leading rider on my horses, then I'll ride him. I'd be crazy not to. But if not, I'll probably ride all of my own.

"At least I won't have to worry about fighting with the owner or the trainer after the race if the horse doesn't get a good ride."

A Sea Trippi heads Azalea prep

Friday's $45,000 Swept Away Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies, is likely to produce a locally based starter or two for the Grade 3, $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes on July 15.

A Sea Trippi, runaway winner of the Harmony Lodge Stakes in her last start and runner-up to Joint Effort in the Sunshine Millions Oaks last winter at Gulfstream Park, will likely be favored over a strong field that also includes multiple stakes winner Running Lass, the speedy Rgirldoesn'tbluff, stakes-placed No Hear Say, Frolicing, Double Delta, Psalms of Praise, and Vivaldi Girl.

Vivaldi Girl is the most intriguing member of the lineup. Trained by Joe Catanese III, Vivaldi Girl will be making both her U.S. and 3-year-old debut in the Swept Away. As a 2-year-old, Vivaldi Girl won 6 of 8 starts in Puerto Rico, including a pair of Group 1 races.

Take D'Tour returns to New York

Take D'Tour, a 5 1/4-length winner of the Grade 2 Shuvee Stakes at Belmont Park on May 21, was vanned back to New York earlier this week to make her Grade 1 debut in Saturday's $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap. Take D'Tour beat Balletto, Eclipse Award-winning filly Smuggler, and trainer Todd Pletcher's highly regarded Indian Vale in the Shuvee.

"She's doing great. She worked unbelievable here before leaving the other day, and she deserves a chance to take on Grade 1 horses off her last race," said David Fawkes, who trains Take D'Tour.

Take D'Tour won for the fifth time in as many tries going a one-turn mile in the Shuvee but will try to stretch her speed an extra sixteenth in the Ogden Phipps.

"We think the one turn has been an important part of her success, but that's not to say she can't be successful around two turns in the future," said Fawkes.

Florida's ties to Triple Crown

Jazil's victory in the Belmont Stakes gave horses who raced at Gulfstream Park last winter a sweep of all three Triple Crown events.

Jazil finished second in an entry-level allowance race and seventh in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

Derby winner Barbaro won both the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby, while Preakness hero Bernardini raced twice in maiden races at Gulfstream.

Tampa Bay Downs management was also beaming Saturday after Bluegrass Cat followed his second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with another second in the Belmont and Bushfire was triumphant in the Grade 1 Acorn. Bluegrass Cat captured Tampa's Sam F. Davis Stakes and finished second in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, while Bushfire won the Tampa Bay Oaks.