08/13/2002 11:00PM

With Farda Amiga, just one look was all it took


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Day one of the Keeneland September 2000 sales was almost over and Jose DeCamargo was walking out of the sales pavilion with his partners. DeCamargo looked over to the holding area where the last few yearlings to be offered were walking and he stopped in his tracks.

"It was love at first sight," DeCamargo said of the Broad Brush filly who would be named Farda Amiga. "I said, 'That's the filly right there.' When she passed by, she struck me by the way she moved."

DeCamargo and his partners - who are all from Brazil - went back into the sales pavilion and for a mere $45,000 they walked away with the filly. Twenty months later at Churchill Downs, DeCamargo, his partners and what seemed like the entire country of Brazil were celebrating Farda Amiga's 20-1 upset in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Saturday, Farda Amiga will make her first start since then when she faces You and Bella Bellucci in the Grade 1, $750,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Farda Amiga arrived from California on Wednesday afternoon.

To show how much he liked the filly, DeCamargo told partners Julio Camargo and Marcos Simon that he would keep a piece of the filly. DeCamargo, who primarily buys horses to export to Brazil, said the reason Farda Amiga went so cheaply was because "she had some warnings from vet reports, simple things that scared people away. She has a $300,000 pedigree, easy."

Farda Amiga began her career on turf because she looked like the type of horse that wanted to run from off the pace and the California dirt tracks are not conducive to such a style in sprint races.

After Farda Amiga won two of her first four starts on turf, the decision was made to run Farda Amiga in the Santa Anita Oaks to see how she would handle dirt, because her connections wanted to run her in the Kentucky Oaks. When Farda Amiga made a big run to be fourth - beaten only two lengths by You - all systems were go for the Kentucky Oaks.

In that race, Farda Amiga rallied from seventh to win by 1 1/4 lengths, setting off a wild celebration in the winner's circle.

"We had 14 people there," DeCamargo said. "But the noise that we made, it sounded like 28."

Farda Amiga, who is trained by Paulo Lobo, also from Brazil, was stressed out from her Oaks performance and spiked a fever. She was given plenty of time to recover, and was put back into serious training in late June. DeCamargo said he is not as concerned with the layoff as he is with the weather.

"She's a lightly built filly," DeCamargo said. "If she was a big filly, she maybe would need a race. What I'm concerned about is the heat of the afternoon at Saratoga."

Chris McCarron, now retired, rode Farda Amiga in the Kentucky Oaks. Pat Day picked up the mount for the Alabama. Last weekend, Day passed McCarron to become the sport's all-time leading rider in purse money won.

Magic Weisner: Travers or Pa. Derby?

Magic Weisner, the Ohio Derby winner and Preakness and Haskell runner-up, may skip next Saturday's $1 million Travers to run in the $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 2.

While owner-trainer Nancy Alberts said she is still considering the Travers, she added that "I'm definitely thinking of the Pennsylvania Derby."

Alberts cited the shorter ship from Laurel Park to Philadelphia Park and the potential of a softer field in the Pennsylvania Derby as reasons why she may skip the Travers.

Alberts said she wants to look at the list of nominations to the Pennsylvania Derby before making a final decision. Nominations for the Pennsylvania Derby close on Saturday.

"I want to go to a race where I think I can win," said Alberts, who gasped when told that Medaglia d'Oro earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Jim Dandy.

Medaglia d'Oro heads the list of starters for the Travers. Others expected to run include Gold Dollar, Like a Hero, Nothing Flat, Puzzlement, Quest, Repent, and Saint Marden. Shah Jehan and Rosetti are possible.

On Monday, trainer Michael Matz confirmed that Saint Marden, a 7 1/2-length winner of an entry-level allowance here on July 28, would run in the Travers, and that Mike Smith will ride.

"The 3-year-old picture is kind of mixed up," Matz said. "Whether we're as good as the others, I don't know. But, he's a fresh horse, he's sound, he hasn't been beaten up, he's been up there for the whole time, and he seems to handle everything real well."

In other Travers news, Puzzlement worked a mile Wednesday in 1:43.42. Equipped with blinkers and under Jean-Luc Samyn, Puzzlement went in fractions of 13 seconds, 25.40, 38, 50.80, 1:03.80, 1:16.60, 1:30.20, and was up 1 1/8 miles in 1:57.20.

Jerkens said he used the blinkers because Puzzlement is a lazy work horse, and Jerkens didn't want to put him in company with another horse. Puzzlement has not and will not race in blinkers.

"He's always tried as hard as he could in his races," Jerkens said.

Like a Hero, the Haskell third-place finisher, worked four furlongs in 54.07 seconds over the main track.

Home sweet - quiet - home

Unlike last year, Critical Eye feels right at home in her Saratoga digs. A Grade 1 winner, Critical Eye was stabled on backstretch of the Oklahoma training track for the 2001 meet, and her barn was located near where a caravan of buses drop off hordes of people coming to the track. Now, Critical Eye, who won an allowance race here last week, lives in a quieter area near the main track.

"It was a bad spot - too much traffic," Critical Eye's trainer, Scott Schwartz, said. "She didn't eat. Instead, she watched the crowds and never got a chance to relax."

Critical Eye, a 5-year-old New York-bred closing in on $1 million in earnings, ran perhaps the worst race of her career when she was beaten 26 1/4 lengths in last year's Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Schwartz is going to take another crack at the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, which will be run on Aug. 23. But this time, Schwartz has the confidence he's running a horse that is happy.

"She's her old self now," Schwartz said. "As bad as she was last year, she's doing good this year."

Ransom's Pride out with colic

Ransom's Pride suffered from a bout of colic earlier in the week and will miss Friday's $75,000-added Yaddo Handicap, a race she won last year en route to earning two New York-bred championships.

Mike Hernandez, Ransom Pride's trainer, said she is resting comfortably in her Saratoga barn.

"She seems to be okay, but you can't take any chances," Hernandez said. "We breezed her [Saturday] and she colicked Monday. I'm very disappointed."

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson