01/07/2002 1:00AM

Nice Boots Baby is Ruthless at Aqueduct


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Nice Boots Baby showed another dimension by coming off the pace to win her first stakes in Sunday's $76,945 Ruthless at Aqueduct by 2 1/2 lengths over Proper Gamble.

Nice Boots Baby, a 3-year-old, is now 3 for 3 for her Maryland-based owner and trainer, Tony Dutrow.

Under Mario Pino, Nice Boots Baby, the favorite of the four-horse field, was expected to go straight to the lead in the six-furlong Ruthless, tactics she used to win her first two starts. Instead, Al Max Diner forged to the front and craved out fractions of 23.18 seconds, 47.00, and 58.79. Nice Boots Baby was content to sit at the back of the pack and came to the outside at the top of the stretch to collar Al Max Diner in the final furlong.

Proper Gamble finished a neck in front of Al Max Diner. Vesta completed the order of finish.

Pino said he expected his filly to be the pacesetter.

"I was surprised we didn't outbreak Al Max Diner and once we were behind, I didn't want to rush my filly," Pino said. "For her to completely switch running styles like that says a lot."

Nice Boots Baby ($3.90) covered the distance in 1:10.82 over a fast track.

Dutrow said he would bring Nice Boots Baby back to Aqueduct for the $75,000 Dearly Precious on Feb. 16.