09/25/2006 11:00PM

Gal Wonder delivers for new owner

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The best of the many good stories to come out of Saturday's Festival of the Sun Preview program had to be the 2 1/2-length victory by Gal Wonder in the $150,000 Brave Raj Stakes.

Gal Wonder, a 2-year-old daughter of Three Wonders, was purchased privately by owner Carol Castille less than 48 hours before the Brave Raj and was left in the care of trainer Larry Pilotti. She was ridden to victory by Rosemary Homeister Jr., who posted her first stakes win since coming out of retirement earlier this meet.

Gal Wonder entered the Brave Raj off her maiden win and had not posted a Beyer higher than 59 in four previous starts. Yet she went right to the lead from her inside post and never looked back in her stakes debut, easily holding off a final bid from Silkily after settling into the stretch with a clear lead.

"I always thought she'd be a better filly going long, but of course it's always a surprise when you win a stakes coming out of a maiden race like she did," said Pilotti. "The only instructions I gave Rosie in the paddock was not to let anybody steal the race by going 49 and change on the lead, and she rode the race perfectly."

Pilotti said if all goes well, he plans to bring Gal Wonder back in the John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes on Nov. 11.

"It's a shame she's not eligible for the Florida Stallion Stakes, but I always felt she'd be better on the turf because of her breeding, being by Three Wonders out of a Proud Birdie mare, so we'll point for the John Franks in November."

Homeister has been Gal Wonder's regular rider since Gal Wonder began her career earlier this summer.

"I told Larry from the first time I worked her that she was a very classy filly and would be better the further she went," said Homeister, an Eclipse Award-winning rider. "Larry told me not to let anybody get away with a slow pace on us, and instead we were able to get away with a slow pace on them."

Homeister has moved into the top 10 in the standings with 28 wins at the meet.

Bayou's Lassie makes big statement

Bayou's Lassie proved she'll be a force in the 3-year-old filly division the rest of the year after going gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Judy's Red Shoes Stakes. The win was the first stakes victory for trainer Stanley Gold in 15 years.

A homebred daughter of Outflanker owned by Jacks or Better Farm, Bayou's Lassie surprisingly opened a commanding early advantage, was given a bit of a breather around the second turn by jockey Elvis Trujillo, then drew out again when challenged by Silversider. The win was her fourth in five career starts, and her second win in two tries on grass. Bayou's Lassie's only loss came in the Grade 3 Azalea Stakes here earlier this summer.

"She got hurt when she was 2, and the owners took a bit of time with her to allow her to develop," said Gold, who was an assistant to trainer James Hatchett before Hatchett's retirement last year. "They really had high hopes for her since she's a sister to Grade 1 winner Midas Eyes."

Trujillo rides four winners

Bayou's Lassie was one of four wins on the card for Trujillo, who also captured the Needles Stakes aboard Jet Propulsion. Trujillo returned to ride winners in two more races Monday, including a 2-year-old maiden allowance aboard Hold'em or Fold'em. Trujillo is fifth in the standings, only four victories behind fourth-place Carlos Olivero.

Olivero will be out for the rest of the meet and perhaps as long as three months after suffering a broken left leg when he was unseated from his mount, Spirit of Miami, before Sunday's eighth race. The previously undefeated Spirit of Miami ran off, unseating Olivero and also cutting himself up in the process after running into a fence at the end of the seven-furlong chute.

Cardoso rides his first winner

Jockey David Cardoso won the first race of his career Sunday, when he guided Jericho Plaza to victory in the sixth race. A 19-year-old native of Mexico, Cardoso is represented by jockey agent Victor Centeno.

Two other apprentices, Jennifer David and Yamil Trinidad, launched their careers here Monday, but neither was able to finish on the board.

Anglers Reef seeks rebound

Anglers Reef, whose stablemate Big Lover registered a nine-length victory in Monday's main event, will be among the favorites in Thursday's $26,000 allowance feature at six furlongs.

Anglers Reef had finished first or second in each of his previous five starts before a dull showing in the recent Ambehaving Stakes. Tropical Play, Gold Timer, and Nonchalant are among the other leading contenders.

Two Wolfson stars have workouts

Trainer Marty Wolfson worked his top 3-year-old turf horse, Can't Beat It, five furlongs in 1:02.80 over the main track on Tuesday. Can't Beat It is being pointed for the Grade 3 Calder Derby here Oct. 14.

Wolfson also sent Breeders' Cup Mile hopeful Miesque's Approval out to breeze a slow half-mile in 53. Miesque's Approval could have his final Breeders' Cup prep in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 7.