04/16/2002 12:00AM

Ground broken for child-care center


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Tuesday, on a summer-like morning at Belmont Park, a groundbreaking ceremony took place for a child-care center, the country's first on-site facility for the children of backstretch employees.

Work on the 7,500-square foot building, which will cost $1.2 million to construct, will be completed over the summer, with the center opening in the fall. At full capacity, the year-round facility, located adjacent to

Barn 28, will accommodate 80 preschool children daily. The center also will be open to the children of New York Racing Association's employees. NYRA donated the land on which the center is built.

Through fundraising events and donations, $2.5 million so far has been raised for building and operating costs. Scores of horsemen from New York and elsewhere have supported the on-going capital campaign to fund the center, which is named the Anna House, for the daughter of Thoroughbred owners Eugene and Laura Melnyk, who donated $1 million.

The idea for the center was first broached several years ago at a New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association meeting. Horsemen agreed there was an essential need for an on-site facility since most backstretch workers work long hours that don't mirror the hours of operation of an outside center and, in many cases, lack the financial wherewithal to place their children in day-care.

Jockey Jerry Bailey and his wife, Suzee, a founder of the Belmont Child Care Association, the non-profit organization that spearheaded the project, asked their friend Michael Dubb, a residential builder, for advice on how to put the plan in motion.

Dubb later became the president of the BCCA, and donated the shell of the building, and is overseeing the construction process at no cost.

"We're doing this for the children and the family of backstretch workers and also for racetracks all over the country," Dubb said. "We want to raise the bar high for other racetracks to follow suit."

South American star headed here

Senora Claudia, a Group 1 winner in South America, is expected to ship to New York from California later this week to run in Saturday's $150,000 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup, according to trainer Eduardo Inda.

Barry Schwartz, NYRA's chairman, owns Senora Claudia.

Inda said Senora Claudia, undefeated in three starts in her native Chile, likely would remain in New York following the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses.

"We haven't been able to get any allowance races on the dirt to fill for her," Inda said Tuesday from California. "That's why she hasn't run since February."

Senora Claudia has run only once in this country since arriving from Chile last August. The 4-year-old finished fifth in a third-level allowance race at Santa Anita on Feb. 13. Inda said Senora Claudia bled in that race and would receive Lasix on Saturday.

Get ready for Thunderello

Thunderello, who turned heads last year as a 2-year-old, is back in training at Belmont and about two months away from his 2002 debut.

Thunderello was preparing for his stakes debut last fall when he suffered a slight tear of the suspensory ligament in his left foreleg and was sent to the sidelines for stall rest. Trained by Scott Lake, Thunderello finished second at Saratoga in his career debut behind Mayakovsky, who broke the track record that day. Thunderello came back and won his next race by 14 1/4 lengths.

"He's doing fantastic," Lake said. "It was scary how good he was last year; I'm looking forward to this year."

Lake said if Thunderello had remained in training, it was unlikely the horse would have been pointed to the Triple Crown.

"I'd be shocked if he could go a mile and a quarter," Lake said. "He has so much natural speed; he's just all go, all the time. He's more of a miler."

Thunderello, who spent the winter on a farm in Ocala, Fla., had his first three-furlong breeze last Friday at Belmont, working in 39.97 seconds.

Cozzy Corner looking ahead

Thursday's feature, a grass allowance for fillies and mares, could produce a runner or two for the $100,000-added Beaugay on closing day, May 5. Seven are in the main body of the race, and there are three main-track-only horses.

Trainer Pat Kelly is using the mile race as a stepping-stone to the Beaugay for his stakes winner Cozzy Corner, one of the main contenders in Thursday's $55,000 feature. This is the first start of the year for Cozzy Corner, who drew the rail and jockey Robbie Davis.

"She looks fit and should give a good account of herself," Kelly said. "She always tries hard."

The race looks like a good spot for Shopping for Love, who returns to turf after finishing fifth in the Broadway in her 2002 debut.

Transcendental, the beaten favorite in the Grade 3 Next Move, is entered main-track only.

* Connie Lakow, the mother of NYRA's racing secretary and handicapper, Mike Lakow, died on Sunday. A private service was held in Pennsylvania.