09/09/2007 11:00PM

O'Neill scores his 1,000th victory

EmailPOMONA, Calif. - Doug O'Neill has gone a long way in the 11 years since winning his first stakes race on the five-eighths-mile track at Fairplex Park.

"It was in the CTBA Marian Stakes with a filly named Tanks Forthemusic," O'Neill recalled. "I remember standing in the winner's circle and I felt like Bobby Frankel."

O'Neill has made quite a few more trips to the winner's circle since then, and Sunday at Fairplex, he celebrated the 1,000th win of his career.

Meetmeinthewoods rallied to a half-length win under Tyler Baze in race 11, providing another milestone for O'Neill at a track where he has achieved several milestones.

"I don't how you would squeeze it all in," he said.

An abbreviated list would include the first stakes by Tanks Forthemusic; the first stakes by a horse named Lava Man in the 2004 Derby Trial; and the 2003 Gateway to Glory Stakes win by Skipaslew, an early highlight for O'Neill and late owner Merv Griffin.

"Pomona has been a great place for us," O'Neill said. "It's just a fun place to run, and it's been a springboard for bigger and better things."

O'Neill has led the Fairplex standings four of the last five years.

Paul Reddam owns Meetmeinthewoods in partnership with O'Neill's brother Dennis, whom O'Neill credits for helping to build the largest stable in Southern California.

"I couldn't have done anything without Dennis and [assistant] Leandro Mora," O'Neill said.

When O'Neill won the 1996 stakes race, his career win total was less than 10. The win by Meetmeinthewoods was the 998th in North America for O'Neill. Adding in wins by Fleetstreet Dancer in the Japan Cup Dirt and Spring at Last in the Godolphin Mile brings O'Neill to the 1,000-win mark.

Jockey standings remain tight

Meetmeinthewoods provided more than a memorable win for the trainer. It was also the seventh win in three days by jockey Tyler Baze, who is rebuilding his career. Baze had become a virtual unknown this winter at Santa Anita, but picked up momentum at the Hollywood spring-summer meet, and won 19 races from 152 at Del Mar to finish seventh in the standings.

After three days of Fairplex racing, Baze was tied with Martin Pedroza in a jockey race that is likely to be a three-way battle. Baze was 7 for 26 on the opening weekend, Pedroza was 7 for 31, and Agapito Delgadillo won 5 of 24. David Flores went 4 for 13, and the only reason he will not contend for the title is because he will not ride as often as Baze, Pedroza, or Delgadillo.

Class drop suits Bravo Maestro

The only thing Bravo Maestro needed was a drop. After a summer chasing graded stakes horses, Bravo Maestro dropped in Saturday at Fairplex and won the $63,050 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Black Spot. It was 1o1/2 lengths back to Sensational Score, the 2006 Pomona Derby winner who has lost a step. C'Mon Tiger washed out and finished a dull fourth as the 8-5 favorite.

Ben Cecil trains Bravo Maestro, who recently faced Grade 1 winner After Market, the brilliant turf miler Crossing the Line, and Atlando. The Shepherd was his first start on a conventional dirt track. Martin Pedroza rode Bravo Maestro ($6.20) to the win in 1:45.21 for 1 1/16 miles, waiting for room on the far turn before squeezing through. The Shepherd is the early-season prep race for the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on closing Sunday.

Velvet Moonlite wires Johnston

A key scratch from the $63,700 E.B. Johnston Stakes on Sunday allowed Velvet Moonlite to race gate to wire in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares. Velvet Moonlite broke slowly but quickly recovered under David Flores, set tepid fractions of 48.63 seconds and 1:13.53, and won by a neck in 1:45.34. Quiet Kim was second and Debie Ginsburg finished a hanging third. I Can See, the second favorite, finished fifth.

Cliff Sise trains Velvet Moonlite ($5.60). Although the E.B. Johnston is often a prep race for the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap on closing weekend, Sise suggested after the race that Velvet Moonlite might skip that race.

Skipaslew wins low-level claimer

Skipaslew was a 2-year-old when he won the 2003 Gateway to Glory Stakes at Fairplex Park for Merv Griffin and Doug O'Neill. He flirted with the Derby trail by winning the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby in early 2004, but by this year he had changed barns five times and sunk to the low claiming ranks. Skipaslew returned to Fairplex in race 8 on Friday and won a $12,500 claiming race going away under Goncalino Almeida. It was his seventh win from 35 starts; John Sadler claimed him from Bill Spawr. No reason he cannot win right back.

No Means Maybe tops stakes

O'Neill will have the likely favorite Thursday in the $65,000 Bustles and Bows Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. He will start No Means Maybe, an Old Topper filly who won a $50,000 claiming race Aug. 22 at Del Mar by more than five lengths. A field of six entered the 6 1/2-furlong race, including Queen Holly, Harlan's Song, Elsie Jo, Lauren C, and Another Aleyna.

Overall handle rises 2.2 percent

A 21 percent increase in out-of-state handle opening weekend compensated for declines in ontrack and intertrack handle, as Fairplex ended the first three days of the meet up 2.2opercent in overall handle. The cumulative handle for the three-day weekend was $22,934.808. Ontrack attendance dropped 13 percent, to 18,246.

Five mule riders unseated after race

In Sunday's first race, five of the six mules lost their riders galloping out after the finish. The incident was caused by the winner, Bar JF Geneo, a notorious rogue who propped while galloping out. He dumped jockey Alejandro Garcia, and four trailing mules could not avoid the spill.

The only mule that kept his rider was Sis-Q Skipa Libby, who finished the 220-yard race on the outside fence. Luckily, all five unseated jockeys returned without apparent injury. There was $39,697 bet on the mule race.