12/08/2009 12:00AM

Lopez pulling double duty

Barbara D. Livingston
Paco Lopez, Eclipse-winning apprentice of last year, started riding Quarter Horses at age 12.

MIAMI - Paco Lopez captured his first Meadowlands jockey title on Saturday night. He celebrated that milestone the following afternoon by engaging in one of his favorite pastimes: Riding in a Quarter Horse race.

Lopez not only rode a Quarter Horse race on Sunday, he won the opening event that day at Hialeah Park aboard a first-time starter named High Bar Jesse.

"Paco says he enjoys riding Quarter Horse races even more than Thoroughbred races," said Lopez's agent, Cory Moran. "Here he goes and wraps up the Meadowlands riding title in a blizzard in New Jersey late Saturday evening, and the next afternoon he's in south Florida riding Quarter Horses."

Lopez is no stranger to Quarter Horses. In fact the 24-year-old journeymen has been riding Quarter Horse races for half his life, having begun in his native Mexico at the age of 12. He said that he had won several thousand Quarter Horse races before finally switching over to the Thoroughbreds on a regular basis when he came to Calder during the spring of 2007.

Lopez's career really took off the following year. As an apprentice, Lopez ran away with the 2008 Calder riding title by winning 161 races, 40 more than runner-up Manoel Cruz. He was eventually named the Eclipse Award winner as the outstanding apprentice jockey in 2008.

Lopez, who was back at Calder on Monday, moved his tack to New Jersey for the first time on a regular basis this year and finished seventh in the standings during the long Monmouth Park meet before breaking out to dominate the recently concluded Meadowlands session.

"Although Paco would love to keep going over to Hialeah and riding Quarter Horses, we've got to start concentrating on our major goal at the moment, which is to have a big Gulfstream meeting," Moran said. "He may go over to Hialeah or up to Tampa to ride an occasional stakes race this month, but primarily we'll be riding at Calder the rest of this month and hoping to build on all the success he had at the Meadowlands heading into the winter at Gulfstream."

The 2010 Gulfstream meet begins on Jan. 3.

Fly by Phil returning

The most interesting race this week could be the fifth event on Friday's card, a one-mile and 70-yard entry-level allowance race for 2-year-olds, which will see the return of the promising Fly by Phil. A homebred son of Act of Duty, he went to the sidelines because of a minor problem after winning his maiden by nearly 11 lengths, under wraps, going a mile on Sept. 20. In his previous try, Fly by Phil was beaten a half-length by the multiple-stakes-placed Thank U Philippe.

Fly by Phil is trained by Kathleen O'Connell, who also entered Flatter This in Friday's headliner. Flatter This finished second behind the multiple-stakes-placed Bernie the Maestro when returning from more than four months on the sidelines here on Nov. 22.

Friday's feature also attracted top contenders Peace at Dawn and Shotgun Duty.

White Shoes shines in work

Monday's work tab was a busy one and included such stakes-caliber older horses as Motovato (four furlongs in 49 seconds) and Magic Mecke (three furlongs in 37.40). The most intriguing name on the tab, though, and most impressive work of the morning was turned in by White Shoes, a talented but injury-plagued gelding who officially worked three furlongs from the gate in 36 seconds before galloping out a half-mile in 47 and change.

White Shoes was among the more promising 2-year-olds to compete here during the tail end of the 2007 season. But this son of Repent has made just two starts since winning his maiden in his juvenile finale, the most recent outing resulting in an impressive 3 1/4-length allowance victory returning from hiatus of nearly six months on Nov. 13. White Shoes is trained by Rodolfo Garcia for the Caroni Stable.

Thank U Philippe breezes

Thank U Philippe, who has finished second behind two of the top ranked 2-year-olds in the country in his last two starts, worked a half-mile in 50.40 seconds here on Tuesday. It was his second breeze since finishing a distant second behind Buddy's Saint in the Grade 1 Nashua.

In his previous start, Thank U Philippe was runner-up to Jackson Bend here Oct. 17 in the In Reality.

Saez comes back hot

Apprentice Luis Saez, who missed several days serving out a riding suspension, wasted little time getting himself right back into the race for the jockeys title last weekend. Saez returned from his brief vacation on Saturday by posting a hat trick, then returned the following afternoon with a five-bagger that included the feature race aboard odds-on favorite Jessica Is Back.

Saez will enter Thursday's program with 40 victories for the session and in a dead heat for second with defending champion Manoel Cruz. Eibar Coa leads a tightly packed trio with 43 wins.

Restricted horses allowed on track

The nearly 60 horses stabled in the three barns placed under restrictions because of a case of the equine herpesvirus discovered here on Nov. 30 were allowed to train over the main track for the first time in nearly a week on Tuesday morning.

Of that group, 22 recorded official workouts, including 17 from the stable of trainer Bill White. Barring any further outbreaks of the disease, the restrictions on the three barns will be lifted on Dec. 20.