12/27/2006 12:00AM

For Migliore, a new chapter opens

Charles Pravata/Horsephotos
Kip Deville and Richard Migliore win the Sir Beaufort Stakes on Santa Anita's opening day.

ARCADIA, Calif. - In a widely respected career of 4,199 victories at the top of the game through Tuesday's racing, Richard Migliore will remember his 4,199th as one of the sweetest.

The nuts and bolts were nothing extraordinary - a Grade 3 stakes event for 3-year-olds at a mile on the turf, named for one of the more obscure big-race winners out West - but the setting and the circumstances were enough to send chills of excitement through Migliore's 42-year-old bones.

"I grew up in Brooklyn, reading about Charlie Whittingham, Cougar II, Laffit Pincay, Bill Shoemaker," Migliore said at the end of his first Santa Anita opening day. "I don't want to sound sappy, but now here I was, in the place where their history is literally engraved in stone. I thought just to be on six horses opening day was great, and then to win - I feel like I've made my first positive step. Like I've written my first paragraph."

It is refreshing to hear a battle-scarred vet like Migliore wax so honestly rhapsodic over a new career experience. In the past, Migliore would follow the major East Coast circuit from New York to south Florida this time of year, although in recent seasons he has remained at home in Long Island through the winter as his four children work their way through grammar and high school. His reward has been January and February at Aqueduct, where he has won eight titles.

"I love New York racing," Migliore said. "It's been great to me. But it's hard to get up every morning and drive down the Belt Parkway to Ozone Park. You're not going to see any beautiful sunrises, like at Santa Anita. You're just hoping to miss sleet and snow.

"When I first got here last month, there were some days I didn't have a mount at Hollywood, because I was just getting started," Migliore added. "So I'd work horses in the morning, then come over here in the afternoon and just wander around the place. I was in awe."

While Latent Heat and Edgar Prado took the major prize with their two-length victory in the opening-day Malibu Stakes, beating Brother Derek and Arson Squad in the process, the details of Migliore's first Santa Anita paragraph are highlighted by his one-length win in the $114,300 Sir Beaufort Stakes aboard Kip Deville. A son of the Gulch stallion Kipling, Kip Deville was last seen trailing Showing Up in the Hollywood Derby. Migliore put the gray colt in the right spot, then needed just a whisper of good luck to get the job done.

"If I don't get through," Migliore said, "you know what everybody would be thinking. 'Send him back to New York. You don't get through like that in California.' But the hole came up when I needed it, and suddenly it's a great ride. That's the jockey's life."

No one can recite that life, chapter and verse, better than Richie Migliore. From his Eclipse Award-winning days as a teen sensation in New York, through his harrowing cluster of injuries that would have ended most careers, to his status as a clear-thinking advocate for horse and rider safety, Migliore has been a solid anchor in any jockeys' room.

For his first Santa Anita meet, Migliore is occupying the old Chris McCarron-Eddie Delahoussaye corner of the room - good vibes linger - and he is being represented by agent Ron Anderson, who also handles the 2006 national money leader, Garrett Gomez. Anderson and Migliore are calling their association "The Drive to Five," targeting the 5,000-winner mark before they're through.

True to any first-time experience, Migliore was left with any number of indelible opening day memories, including:

The parking lot - Jockeys have their own numbered spots, but on a hectic opening day, it wasn't quite that simple for a Santa Anita newbie.

"I saw a guy named Manny, showed him my license, and he said just park here for today and we'll figure it out," Migliore said. "I'm a little worried, though, that I might be towed. It's over there by the Employee of the Month spot."

The hill - Migliore rode in his first 6 1/2-furlong race down the tricky Santa Anita hillside course in Tuesday's second race, finishing sixth of 12 aboard 9-1 shot Buck Tuddy Buck. His reaction?

"It was awesome," Migliore said. "I really got a kick out of it. You make lefts your whole life, it's nice to make a right once in awhile."

The crowd - Coming in at 32,931 strong, the opening-day crowd buzzed and roared throughout the afternoon, giving Migliore all the right kind of flashbacks.

"For me, it was most comparable to opening day at Saratoga," Migliore said. "The energy is incredible, and like Saratoga, the place has a quality of timelessness."

If his car hadn't been towed (it wasn't), Migliore was going to celebrate opening day by attending a Kings hockey game with his 16-year-old son, Joey, a cross-country star who flew West with his dad on Christmas night. Joey had to go home on Friday for a weekend meet, leaving Pop to fend for himself. But if past performances are any key, Migliore will do just fine. His goal, short of winning as often as possible, is simple:

"I hope if I leave one mark on California racing, no matter how long I stay here, it's that people say, 'That guy really, really liked what he did.' "