09/25/2003 12:00AM

Jill's Layup looks like a slam dunk in Oaks


East Boston, Mass. - Jill's Layup, one of the most promising Massachusetts-bred fillies to come around in years, returns from a five-month layoff in the $35,000 Massachusetts Oaks for statebred 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles.

Trained by Edward Stone, Jill's Layup won her debut last summer at Rockingham, and since then she has won five races, including four stakes.

Jill's Layup won her last two races, both open to male horses. In March she won the African Prince Stakes and a month later took the Helena Stakes.

Because of Jill's Layup's on-again, off-again foot problems, Stone has downplayed his filly's chances prior to all three of her starts this year. Jill's Layup is vulnerable Saturday, he said, and considering the worst race of her career - a fourth in the Mystery Jet in her first start of the year - came the last time she returned from a vacation, he could be right.

For those looking to bet against Jill's Layup, the problem is there's just not much serious competition for her in this race.

Amazing Thunder, who won an allowance race last time, and Daffodil Princess represent her biggest threats. Amazing Thunder's win came after trainer Marshall Novak added blinkers to her equipment. Daffodil Princess, trained by Karl Grusmark, gets blinkers for the first time Saturday.

Two who would have been Jill's Layup's biggest rivals weren't entered in the Oaks. Glory Be Good and Princess Attitude both gave Jill's Layup trouble earlier this year, but both have distance limitations.

Lilly Be Nice, See Ya Zia, and Buttonwood Angel round out the Oaks field, but each ran so poorly in her last race that she failed to register a Beyer Speed Figure.

As with all statebred races, there will only be win, perfecta, and trifecta wagering available.

Big week for new faces

Four new faces in the jockey colony made an impact in races this week.

David Mello turned his lifelong dream of race-riding into reality Tuesday by finishing in the money with the first two mounts of his career.

Jose Torres, an apprentice jockey who is beginning to pick up more mounts, won the finale on Tuesday.

Edgar Paucar picked up where he left off at Northampton, where he won the riding title, winning two races on Monday to put near the top of the standings.

Nelson Arroyo, the younger brother of apprentice Eclipse Award finalist Norberto Arroyo, won his third race of the meet Wednesday in his return to his hometown. He had raced here with the bug two years ago. Nelson Arroyo has averaged a win mutuel of more than $36 in his victories as a journeyman.