12/07/2006 12:00AM

Jockey sticks with Staten Island


Owner Dennis Weir and trainer Kevin Lewis appear to hold the aces in the filly division of the $40,000 Arizona Breeders' Futurity at Turf Paradise on Saturday with Staten Island and Beacon Falls, while R Big Stuff looms a heavy favorite in the $40,000 colts-and-geldings division. Both races are for Arizona-bred juveniles and lured full fields of 12.

In analyzing Lewis's runners, the jockey assignments may be the tipoff. Staten Island and Beacon Falls both impressed when they won qualifiers for this race here Nov. 24. Staten Island dueled early in her heat and drew off under Sandi Gann to win by nearly three as the 2-1 favorite. Gann also steered Beacon Falls to her victory, as they dueled all the way and gamely held on to beat M J's Headache, who returns here.

However, Gann ends up staying with Staten Island for this assignment. Leslie Mawing gets the call on Beacon Falls.

M J's Headache stalked the pace duel of Beacon Falls and finished gamely to miss by a head. She appears to be improving for owner John Bublitz and trainer Troy Smith. Blueskycat, meanwhile, comes off three straight seconds for trainer Clay Brinson, including finishing nearly three lengths behind Staten Island in their division Nov. 24.

R Big Stuff hinted at talent when he finished second in his debut for owner Gary Stevenson and trainer Molly Pearson at Hollywood Park last May, but he wasn't seen again until Oct. 24 here. That day he impressed by wiring maidens under Miguel Hernandez, and he came back to impressively win his qualifier for this race Nov. 24, again under Hernandez. That day he dueled and edged away late as the heavy favorite. Hernandez has the return call.

R Big Stuff's most immediate victim on both occasions was Tunnel, who is back for another shot. Though he's still a maiden, Tunnel, owned by Weir and trained by Michael Stewart, ran quite nicely in those two outings when second to R Big Stuff, the only races of his career. He blew the start when second in the Nov. 24 race, and despite that had the speed to be right into the duel after only a few strides under Scott Stevens. However, that early work to recover from the start and the subsequent duel took their toll in the final strides. He gets blinkers here, and Stevens rides again.

The filly division goes as race 7 on the nine-race card, and the boys go at it in race 8.