07/11/2005 12:00AM

DeCarlo keeping some excellent company

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Ryan McAllinden/EQUI-PHOTOS
Chris DeCarlo and Capeside Lady return Grade 2 winners Sunday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Having Todd Pletcher in your corner is a huge advantage for any rider.

The Eclipse Award-winning trainer helped propel John Velazquez to consecutive record-setting seasons at Saratoga. He has also helped put Chris DeCarlo back on the map at Monmouth Park.

DeCarlo rides first-call for Pletcher at the Jersey Shore this year, a spot that came open when Eibar Coa switched to New York. The results have been dramatic.

The Pletcher-DeCarlo combination is the most successful team at the track with a record of 12-6-4 from 40 mounts, including Capeside Lady's victory Saturday in the Grade 2 .

Thanks to the Pletcher victories, DeCarlo is third in standings behind Joe Bravo and Stewart Elliott. His mounts have already earned $1,098,325.

DeCarlo was ninth last year with 33 wins and $1,174,125 in earnings for the entire season.

"Last year, I had some success with them but they really gave me a shot this year," DeCarlo said. "I never rode as many horses as I'm riding for him now. Without him, I don't think I'd be in the standings."

DeCarlo, 36, enjoyed tremendous success early in his career. He won 1986 Grade 1 Haskell Invitational aboard Wise Times at the age of 17.

He has been looking for a solid niche ever since.

"When I started out I had some success, and then it kind of went into a lull," DeCarlo said. "I never lost confidence in myself. I knew I could do it. I knew what I'm capable of."

DeCarlo has ridden in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Illinois. The golden opportunity finally materialized at Monmouth with Pletcher.

When trying to find your way, it doesn't hurt to have an Angel in your corner. Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr. was instrumental in DeCarlo becoming a jockey.

As Velazquez's agent, Cordero works very closely with Pletcher and still advises DeCarlo.

"He's like a second dad," DeCarlo said. "He helps me. If he sees me do something wrong, he'll call me and correct it, even if I've won the race."

Breen happy with Diavla

Kelly Breen, Monmouth's leading trainer, has no complaints about Diavla's two starts since joining his barn.

"She's an honest, hard-trying horse," Breen said.

Diavla looks like the one to beat in Monmouth's $44,000 optional claiming allowance feature for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on Wednesday.

A 4-year-old filly, Diavla was one of the horses Breen got this spring when John Dowd closed his stable to take a private training position with Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm in Florida.

Diavla has run twice this meet and finished second and third while encountering trouble both times.

Her 2005 debut on May 21 was her first start since November, and she clearly needed the race. Diavla was third to Habiboo after steadying at the eighth pole.

"She got a little pinched, but she was also a little tired," Breen said.

Trouble found her early on June 17 when she steadied into the first turn.

"That didn't bother me too much," Breen said. "If she gets bumped around a little bit early, it seems to get her into the game."

Diavla recovered nicely to grab the lead turning for home and lost to Grinch by only one length.

She has run Beyer Speed Figures of 79 and 81, a level of consistency this season no other horse in the race can match.

"She ran into a couple of buzz saws," Breen said. "She's coming up to this in good shape."

Breen also has an ace in the hole for this spot: Joe Bravo replaces Elvis Trujillo, who was aboard the last two races. Diavla's last two wins came with Bravo in the irons.

Breen and Bravo have been an effective combination. The are 7-2-0 in the 12 times they have teamed up at the meet. Bravo has ridden more winners for Breen than any other trainer at Monmouth this year.

Other top contenders in the race include Treasure's Dream, third behind Diavla last time out in her season debut; Picnic Theme, the New Jersey-bred 7-year-old winner of more than $300,000; and Blind Canyon, runner-up in the Maryland Million Oaks last fall at Pimlico.