11/05/2008 12:00AM

Dad's advice helps Davis win


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jacqueline Davis, the 21-year-old daughter of retired jockey Robbie Davis, earned her first career victory at Aqueduct on Wednesday, guiding Blue Hill Bay ($131) to a front-running victory in a $35,000 claiming race on the turf. She won her first race in her 33rd mount.

Davis is a graduate of the inaugural class of Chris McCarron's North American Racing Academy, based in Lexington, Ky.

"Oh my god, I couldn't believe it," Davis said after her mount held on for a three-quarter-length victory. Davis said that trainer Scott Everett "told me she was going to drag me around, and that's what she did."

Davis said she talked to her dad - who retired in 2002 with 3,385 career wins and now lives in upstate New York - before every race. He told her that she would probably be in front and to try and play catch-me-if-you-can.

"I was up in the front, I thought we were going relaxed and I was like, 'Where is everybody?' " Davis said after receiving a bath of shaving cream, eggs, and water from several of her fellow riders. "I took one glance back halfway down the backstretch and saw somebody coming and said, 'Oh man.' I let her loose a little bit to get away, she gave me a little bit. . . . I was so tired down that stretch. How are you going to win your first race a mile and a sixteenth?"

Davis rode in her first race on Aug. 31 at Saratoga. Most of her rides have been for the Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, for whom Davis works in the mornings as an exercise rider. In Wednesday's ninth race, Davis rode the Jerkens-trained Bluegrass Girl to a second-place finish.

Benzel wins first stakes

Continuing the day of firsts on Wednesday, trainer Seth Benzel picked up his first stakes win when Never Retreat scored a three-quarter-length victory over favored Remarkable Remy in the $69,150 Rare Blend.

Benzel went out on his own in the spring after working as an assistant to Todd Pletcher and before him Bill Mott. It was Benzel's third win from five starts at this meet. His other two starters finished second.

Never Retreat, a 3-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, was making her first start on turf after racing six times on dirt. She finished third of four in the Grade 1 Mother Goose in June when trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.

"In her dirt races she was getting to the position where she should kick in and it just looked like she was floundering a little bit," said Benzel, who decided to try the turf after running her once on dirt, a third-place finish in an overnight stakes at Belmont. "We decided to try something different at the end of the year. Luckily for us, it all went the right way. I think she's really going to reinvent herself from here."

Alan Garcia rode Never Retreat ($13), who covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.00 over firm turf.

Benzel said he plans to split his stable this winter between New York and Florida and will likely send Never Retreat to Florida to compete in turf stakes at Calder or Gulfstream.

Zaftig possible for Top Flight

The Grade 1 winner Zaftig, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint off a 169-day layoff, could run next in the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap here on Nov. 28, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. Zaftig breezed four furlongs in 50.62 seconds Tuesday over the Belmont Park training track.

Zaftig defeated Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 7, but was subsequently sidelined with a stress fracture that forced her out of the major summer events. With limited options, Zaftig returned in the Filly and Mare Sprint, where she ran a respectable third behind Ventura and Indian Blessing.

"She kept running," Jerkens said. "She had to run hard just to keep up; that had to take something out of her. She hadn't run in a long time."

The Top Flight is run as a one-turn mile, the same conditions as the Acorn.

Jerkens reported that Doremifasollatido, winner of the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont, came out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with a chip in a front ankle that required surgery. Jerkens said the New York-bred filly will rejoin his stable during the winter at Gulfstream.

Lieutenant Ron likely for Discovery

Lieutenant Ron is expected to make his highly anticipated stakes debut in the Grade 3, $100,000 Discovery Handicap here on Nov. 22, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin believes Lieutenant Ron had the talent to be among the elite 3-year-olds this year, but circumstances sidelined him for lengthy periods of time on two occasions. Lieutenant Ron has won 3 of 4 starts. He won a second-level allowance race by 8 3/4 lengths at Belmont on Oct. 5.

The Discovery would mark Lieutenant Ron's first start around two turns and at 1 1/8 miles.

"We always felt he wanted to go further because of his big, long stride and his pedigree," said McLaughlin, noting that Lieutenant Ron is by the graded-stakes-winning router Graeme Hall.

As a Florida-bred, Lieutenant Ron is eligible for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24, which is also run at 1 1/8 miles. McLaughlin said that by running in the Discovery, "we can test the waters and see if he gets the nine furlongs."

McLaughlin said that Lucky Island, winner of the Tom Fool and Bold Ruler handicaps, is possible for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 29. Lucky Island has not run since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Sept. 29.

* When Gift of Valor ($52.50) won Wednesday's opener, it broke a 0-for-63 skid for trainer Joe Aquilino. His last winner was also Gift of Valor, who paid $19 here on April 19. Later on the card, trainer Keith O'Brien broke a 0-for-38 streak when Wanda's Double ($31.80) won the fourth.