07/22/2005 12:00AM

Devils Disciple not done yet

Jim Lisa
Devils Disciple, shown winning last year's Criterium Stakes at Calder, was sidelined 10 months after injuring his knee in the Hopeful Stakes.

MIAMI - Some horses never return from the type of knee injury that sidelined Devils Disciple for 10 months, but the son of Devil His Due is not only back, he defeated a good field of older optional claiming horses here last weekend.

Devils Disciple was generally regarded as the top 2-year-old on the grounds here last season, gaining national notoriety after he dropped a heartbreaking decision to Afleet Alex in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Devils Disciple came out of the Hopeful with a slab fracture in his knee, an injury trainer Joe Waunsch believes occurred during the race, likely costing his horse a victory and subsequently keeping him on the shelf for nearly 10 months.

Devils Disciple returned to action here on June 19 in the Valid Video Stakes, only to finish fourth as the 4-5 favorite. He went postward at a similar price - despite facing older horses for the first time - under third- level optional claiming conditions last weekend and showed marked improvement, withstanding an early pace duel before edging away to a 1 1/2-length victory over the veteran Laughing Luke.

"I guess he needed that first one," said Waunsch. "We're going to take it race by race from here. I don't plan on going anywhere with him right now."

Better spot for Lady in Pink

Lady in Pink is fast but she wasn't quite fast enough to contend with the speedballs she faced as one of only two fillies in the quarter-mile Rocket Man Stakes on July 10. But Lady in Pink will be back in her own element and should be fast enough to defeat seven other 3-year-old fillies in Sunday's $40,000 Genes Big Sky Stakes going five furlongs on the turf.

Lady in Pink is already a stakes winner under similar conditions, having captured the Happy New Year's Stakes in convincing fashion in her 3-year-old debut. She was also third despite a horrible start in Gulfstream Park's Cellars Shiraz Stakes and third against older rivals after contesting a rapid pace in the Cool Air Stakes here May 15.

Among those who could give Lady in Pink her stiffest challenge in the Genes Big Sky are Memories of Pa and Mertie M.

Tight races all around

Eightysix It's narrow victory over Starpoleon in Friday's sixth race proved to be a mirror image of the race for leading trainer honors this meet. Eightysix It is trained by Tim Ritvo, while Starpoleon was saddled by Bill White. Ritvo had been cruising atop the standings for much of the past month before White, the perennial Calder training champion, pulled into a short lived dead heat for the lead after sending out New Storm to capture Friday's third race.

Eightysix It not only put Ritvo back on top of the trainer standings but gave jockey Manoel Cruz his second win on Friday's card. Cruz is making a run of his own at defending champion Eddie Castro in the battle for the jockey title after posting four winners here Monday and three more on Tuesday.