10/26/2008 11:00PM

Mig has high hopes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It was two years ago that jockey Richard Migliore left New York for California. He had to yet to regain the business he once had prior to breaking his leg nine days before the 2005 Breeders' Cup.

Migliore returned to New York a week into this year's Saratoga meet, admittedly not the best time for a comeback. But after winning five races at Saratoga and 11 at Belmont, Migliore returns to Aqueduct - which opens its six-month run Wednesday - on a major high after winning his first Breeders' Cup race, the inaugural running of the Turf Sprint aboard Desert Code, last Saturday at Santa Anita.

"You're always hopeful when you win a big race on a big stage like that it helps lift your business,'' Migliore, 44, said Monday. "I think I've been riding well, making the most of the opportunities I'm getting. Hopefully, this shows people I'm riding just as well as I ever did.''

Though he had success in Southern California, Migliore made the decision to return to New York to be with his family.

When Migliore went to California in November 2006, one of the first trainers he re-introduced himself to was David Hofmans, for whom Migliore had ridden Dramatic Gold to a third-place finish in the 1995 NYRA (now Cigar) Mile. Migliore said he walked away from that conversation thinking "we're going to do some good things together.'' Within a month, Migliore rode Desert Code to a maiden victory at Hollywood Park.

Seven weeks into his California stint, Migliore had to familiarize himself with Santa Anita's unique down-the-hill turf course. He would go on to win 15 races at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill, including two aboard Desert Code. Migliore said knowledge of that turf course played a big role in his victory Saturday and showed that Migliore is still a thinking-man's rider.

"I really felt like I had a big hand in that victory because of my knowledge and the homework I do,'' Migliore said. "I hope people appreciate how difficult a race that is to ride.''

Migliore certainly appreciates how difficult it is to win a Breeders' Cup race. In 2005, Migliore was supposed to ride Artie Schiller in the BC Mile at Belmont. Nine days before the race, however, Migliore sustained a broken leg in a freak paddock accident. Artie Schiller won the race with Garrett Gomez aboard.

Migliore, still on crutches, came to the track that day and did a television interview with NBC, which broadcast the race. Migliore declined to be miked while the race was going on, instead electing to watch the race from the jockeys' room alongside longtime friend Eddie Maple. Migliore was horrified when announcer Tom Hammond incorrectly described Migliore as so distraught he had to leave the track.

"I hated being portrayed that way,'' Migliore said. "Of course you feel some regret, but I was depicted so far from what happened, it really upset me. I was happy that the horse won, yet regretful that I wasn't on him.''

Migliore, who has won 10 riding titles at Aqueduct, said he is looking forward to riding at Aqueduct and is committed to riding here through the winter.

"Jose Amy,'' Migliore said referring to his agent, "and myself have been working pretty hard getting on horses letting people know I have a lot of desire to work and hopefully with this big win on Saturday it'll add up to producing more opportunities.''

Limited options for Formal Decree

Formal Decree, who gave Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Godolphin Stable its seventh and final win of the Belmont meet in Saturday's Knickerbocker, could run back in the Grade 2, $150,00 Red Smith at Aqueduct on Nov. 8.

Assistant trainer Rick Mettee said there are limited opportunities for Formal Decree and added that the horse did place in a stakes race at 1o3/8 miles, the distance of the Red Smith.

Mettee said another possibility is the Grade 1, $400,000 Citation at 1o1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Nov. 28.

Formal Decree, a 5-year-old German-bred, earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his Knickerbocker performance.

"He's a pretty good horse when he's right,'' Mettee said. "He's near the best of his European form and his early Dubai form from 2007. It's a big jump to go to the Citation but it's the end of the year.''

Prado, Contessa take Belmont titles

Edgar Prado finished as leading rider at the Belmont fall meet with 43 victories from 192 mounts. Eibar Coa and Rajiv Maragh finished tied for second with 31 apiece. Maragh rode three winners on Sunday's final card. Javier Castellano (27) and Alan Garcia (24) completed the top five.

Meanwhile, Gary Contessa edged out Richard Dutrow Jr., 16-15, for leading trainer. Kiaran McLaughlin finished with 13. Bobby Frankel and Steve Asmussen completed the top five with 10 wins apiece.