07/30/2008 11:00PM

Filly a working man's special


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - If Saturday were a regular day, Dean Hayes would be driving a truckload of Darley Stable's finest stallions from a farm in Lexington, Ky., to the Louisville airport on their way to the Southern Hemisphere for the breeding season.

But this Saturday is not a work day for the 59-year-old Hayes, who has driven trucks for Sallee Horse Vans Inc. for about 30 years, transporting the likes of Genuine Risk, Arazi, Ouija Board, Rags to Riches, and Giant's Causeway. The horses he would have moved on Saturday included Street Sense, Hard Spun, Bernardini, Henny Hughes, and Any Given Saturday.

Instead of working, Hayes will be leading his own 3-year-old filly, Tequilas Dayjur, from the stakes barn to the paddock for Saratoga's Grade 1 Test Stakes. Hayes is the owner/breeder of Tequilas Dayjur, who will take on five rivals, including last year's 2-year-old champion, Indian Blessing, in the Test.

Six years ago, Hayes was given the mare Tequilas First by the now-deceased J.R. Smith Sr., a longtime Midwest trainer and friend of Hayes. Tequilas First won her one and only start in 2001 before being hurt. Hayes bred Tequilas First to the stallion Shadeed and the resulting foal, Tequilas Shadeed, went just 1 for 19. Hayes then bred Tequilas First to Dayjur, resulting in Tequilas Dayjur. Tequilas First now has an unstarted 2-year-old colt, Columbus Lane, by Shadeed, who is also owned by Hayes.

Tequilas Dayjur has won 4 of 6 starts and is coming off a second-place finish to Leah's Secret in the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington Park on June 28.

"She ran one hell of a race, she just got beat at the wire," Hayes said Thursday morning, just hours after he drove a vanload of horses from Kentucky to Saratoga. "She's growing. I don't know how good she's going to be. I'm thankful for the blessings from the lord above just to have her. We'll just see where she takes us."

Had Hayes done what many in his position would have done, Tequilas Dayjur would have taken him to the bank. Hayes said he was offered $500,000 for Tequilas Dayjur after she won her first two starts, including an allowance race at Keeneland last October.

He turned down the offer.

"You just don't up and give your blessings away," said Hayes, who earns about $40,000 a year as a truck drive for Sallee. "I just told them let me enjoy the moment, we'll see what happens."

Hayes and trainer William Hamilton got Tequilas Dayjur ready for the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs last October, but the filly finished eighth, beaten 8 1/2 lengths by Pure Clan. Two days later, Tequilas Dayjur was diagnosed with a guttural pouch infection. She required surgery at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic and was away from the races for six months.

Tequilas Dayjur, who trains at the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington, returned to the races in the spring and won two allowance races at Churchill Downs. Again, there was interest in the filly from prospective buyers. Numbers being floated around were in the million-dollar range.

"The hamburgers still taste the same, the baloney still tastes the same. I'm not being big-headed about it," Hayes said.

In her last start, Tequilas Dayjur was trained by James Jackson. But Jackson is now training at Pinnacle, the new racetrack in Detroit. Tom Moungey, a friend of Hayes's, will be listed as the trainer for the Test. Moungey shows five wins in his career, the most recent a $7,500 claimer at River Downs.

Hayes said that if he keeps Tequilas Dayjur after this race and the 2-year-old makes it to the races, he may eventually take out his own trainer's license.

As for the race itself, Hayes believes Tequilas Dayjur has a chance to make an impact.

"Believe what I tell you, she's going to represent herself," Hayes said.