12/03/2003 12:00AM

Japan winners go separate ways


VINTON, La. - Trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Jon Court come from different worlds. O'Neill is having a breakout year in Southern California, while Court is a successful rider in the Midwest.

But their worlds came together last weekend, when they teamed to win the richest race of both their careers with Fleetstreet Dancer in the $2.3 million Japan World Cup Dirt. And on Friday night, their paths cross again, at Delta Downs in Vinton.

But this time they will be there for separate interests. O'Neill will saddle Perfect Moon in the $1 million Delta Jackpot, while Jon Court will ride leading contender Turn to Lass in the $250,000 Delta Princess.

The fact that Court will not be riding for O'Neill might seem strange considering their big score in Japan, but O'Neill had other factors to consider and Victor Espinoza be aboard Perfect Moon.

"After the [Japan Cup] you want the guy to ride everything," O'Neill said of Court. "But Victor has been riding the horse and he knows him well and it was a no-brainer to have him on Perfect Moon."

O'Neill said Court put an "incredible" ride on Fleetstreet Dancer through the extended stretch run of the Japan Cup. Court first rode for O'Neill in July, when they teamed to win the $250,000 Iowa Derby, with Excessivepleasure.

Fleetstreet Dancer and Excessivepleasure are both owned by Ty and Lee Leatherman, and that's where the Court-O'Neill connection was born. O'Neill said he and Court have a mutual friend in Ty Leatherman.

Perfect Moon, who in his two-turn debut last out ran a troubled third to Ruler's Court in the Grade 2 Norfolk, will be making an equipment change for the Jackpot.

"We're putting blinkers on to keep him a little bit more focused," said O'Neill, who trains the gelding for Royce Jaime. "He's training as good as a horse can train, and I think he will run really well."

Judiths Wild Rush to Aqueduct

Last year, the Jackpot produced a Kentucky Derby starter in Outta Here. This year, the Jackpot has a far deeper field. One starter who already has an eye to the Kentucky Derby is Judiths Wild Rush, a top 2-year-old this year in Canada.

"He'll get a little bit of a break after this, then we'll take him to New York in January and train him there for a little while at Aqueduct," said trainer Scott Fairlie. "Then we'll decide which way we're going.

"We're looking forward to going to the Derby trail with him, but the horse will tell us how far he's going to go into it. We're not going to push him to get him there. He's a very nice horse, and if he tells us he wants to go that route, we'll go that route."

Fitzroyal tries two turns in Marshland

Fitzroyal, who earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure last out for his 8 1/4-length win in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas, will try stretching his speed over seven furlongs on Friday night in the $50,000 Marshland.

Run at two turns, the race is one of two $50,000 stakes supporting the Jackpot. The other is the Golden Triangle at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares. It drew Raymond's Dream, who has won 8 of 11 starts at Delta, and multiple stakes winner Cherylville Slew.

Delahoussaye on hand for Jackpot

Delta will be a destination for some major players Friday night, including Eddie Delahoussaye, who is making special appearances for Boyd Gaming, which owns the track.

Delahoussaye is a native of New Iberia, La., and a member of both the Racing Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. This will be his first visit to Vinton, but he is familiar with Delta.

"My dad ran horses there, and my uncles have had horses run there," said Delahoussaye, who lives in California.

Three value buys in Jackpot

Judiths Wild Rush, Perfect Moon, and America America prove that it doesn't take a king's ransom to play the sport of kings. Each was bought for less than $10,000, has gone on to win stakes, and is a Jackpot contender.

Judiths Wild Rush, who could go off favored, was a $7,000 yearling purchase last August. In his most recent start, he earned one of the highest Beyer Speed Figures of the year for a 2-year-old when he captured the Display.

America America was bought for $5,000 as a yearling last October, and has earned $298,640. Perfect Moon was an even better yearling deal, bought for $4,700. He has gone on to win two graded stakes, the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and the Grade 2 Best Pal.

* Chris Kotulak, a former announcer at Delta, will cover the races for TVG Friday night.