04/14/2003 11:00PM

Morey claims worth following


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Based strictly on Beyer Speed Figures, Rich Musique is the one to beat in Thursday's feature, a six-furlong $50,000 optional claiming race that has attracted a field of six fillies and mares. But while Rich Musique's past two Beyers tower above those of her rivals, other factors point to Kona Queen.

Kona Queen was claimed by Bill Morey for $32,000 in her last start. She is entered for $50,000 for her Bay Meadows debut. Morey is winning at a 32-percent clip this year, but his success first time following a claim is a sensational 43 percent with a $2.59 flat-bet profit.

Kona Queen has won 6 of 13 starts. She has run three times in northern California with two wins and a second in her most recent start. Last year at Golden Gate she won an allowance race and a $50,000 optional claiming race, defeating Devil Dancing and Gifted Daughter.

"Gene [Johnson, owner] picked her out on paper, and I liked her looks," Morey said. "I remembered her from that good race [an optional claiming win] in December."

Morey concedes luck has something to do with his success with first-time runners following a claim, but as legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey once said, "Luck is the residue of design."

Morey is patient following a claim.

"I have lots of owners willing to wait to let me pick the right spot," Morey said. "I try to get them screwed up tight and try to get them the right spot. With this mare, there weren't a lot of options."

He also tries to be careful when he claims and uses Kona Queen as an example.

"I know Gene looked at her win percentage," Morey said. "I do, too. When I see someone who has won, I wonder why they can't win more for us. The ones who don't win for anybody, we can't make them win either."

Depleted jockey colony

The local jockey colony is down three riders Thursday with David Lopez, Gary Baze, and Chance Rollins serving suspensions. A fourth, Frank Alvarado, was also supposed to be sidelined, but he is appealing his three-day suspension for a ride on Cinema Paradisa April 6.

Lopez is serving his second of three days after being disqualified from fourth and placed fifth aboard Scary Tim April 6.

Baze is serving the first of three days after being disqualified from a win aboard Watershed Park on Friday. Rollins begins a five-day suspension for his ride on Lava Lil on Friday, although there weren't any disqualifications in the race.