11/21/2006 12:00AM

Nightmare Affair arrives for De Francis


MIAMI - Nightmare Affair, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, worked four furlongs in 49 seconds here Monday morning, then boarded a van in the afternoon and headed for Maryland, where he will have a possible rematch with Sprint winner Thor's Echo in Saturday's Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Handicap at Laurel.

"I wanted to work him early so he had a chance to rest before getting on the van," said trainer Manuel Azpurua. "I only blew him out an easy half-mile. With two races in such a short time period, he didn't need any more than that. He came out of the last race well, arrived here in Baltimore in good shape, and is doing everything right. I don't know who is going into this race, but I believe if my horse gets the right trip he's going to be right there at the finish no matter who is in the field."

Nightmare Affair will be ridden for the first time by Ramon Dominguez, the leading rider on the Maryland circuit and second-winningest jockey in North America in 2006.

Four riders miss card after spill

The frightening spill that took out five of the 12 starters in Sunday's sixth race kept four of the jockeys involved out of action Monday.

Rajiv Maragh, who rode Chester Image, and Juan Leyva, who rode Chief's Giant, were the most seriously injured jockeys.

Maragh suffered a slight fracture of the left hip, according to his agent Joe Burdo Jr., and was still in the hospital Tuesday to undergo tests to determine if there was any additional damage. He will be out of action for at least five to six weeks.

Leyva accepted one more mount Sunday before taking off the remainder of the card. He went to the hospital the following day and a fracture near his left elbow was diagnosed. Leyva will be sidelined four to six weeks, according to his agent, Mike Moran.

Manoel Cruz and Ariel Smith also took off their mounts on Monday's card. Cruz, who rode the 6-5 Renown for trainer Shug McGaughey, suffered a slight concussion as a result of the spill but was expected to return for Thursday's program. Cruz, in the midst of a nip-and-tuck battle for the riding title with apprentice Jermaine Bridgmohan, had been listed to ride four horses who won races on Monday's card.

Manuel Aguilar was able to resume riding despite being involved in Sunday's incident. He won aboard two of Cruz's mounts, Tupi and Saoirse Cat.

W. G. De'Olivereira, the rider of Sheikh, who was blamed for causing the spill, which occurred near the end of the backstretch, was suspended 15 racing days for careless riding, the track stewards said Monday.

Chester's Image had to be euthanized because of injuries he suffered in the accident.

Bo Diddley, a 17-1 chance, won the maiden special weight race.

Big E works for What a Pleasure

Big E, an impressive maiden winner in his last start, worked a mile in 1:48.80 on Tuesday.

Big E is among the nominees for the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes for 2-year-olds, one of four stakes on the Dec. 2 Grand Slam I program, which also includes the Three Ring for 2-year-old fillies, the Grade 3 Tropical Turf, and the Grade 3 My Charmer on the turf.

* Split divisions of an entry-level allowance race carded at five furlongs on the turf highlight Thursday's 10-race Thanksgiving card.

New York invaders Delta Storm and Quartier Blanc top the first division, and trainer Christophe Clement's Payment in Kind and local mainstay Lox and Kippers top the second division.