04/20/2005 12:00AM

Riding champion Badilla new trainer for EG High Desert


Four-time national champion jockey "Smiling" Joe Badilla Jr., who retired from riding last July, is opening a public training stable. His primary client will be Enrique Gonzalez's nationally prominent EG High Desert Farms, winner of the 2003 champion owner award.

Badilla takes over the EG High Desert horses previously trained by Felix Gonzales.

"I don't miss riding, but I miss being around the track," Badilla said. "My goal is to manage every horse well for every owner."

Badilla, 31, has been the farm's ranch manager since hanging up his tack and is thus familiar with the High Desert horses. The stable's leading 3-year-old, 2004 Kindergarten winner Dash to the End, has been retired and bred after returning from a 10-month layoff and finishing seventh in her La Primera Del Ano Derby trial on March 26. A 5-year-old full sister to Dash to the End, 2003 Grade 1 Governor's Cup Derby winner Magic and Rhythm, has also been retired and bred following her final start on Oct. 30.

These retirements place added emphasis on EG High Desert Farms' 20-head 2-year-old contingent, which includes six prospects eligible to the Grade 1 Kindergarten trials at Los Alamitos on April 30.

Badilla said A Hawkin Cake and Cats Request Hawk, who have each made one start, have shown potential coming up to the Kindergarten trials. A Hawkin Cake won a 300-yard maiden race by 1 1/4 lengths in 15.83 seconds. Cats Request Hawk was eliminated at the start of her maiden race, but worked heads-up with A Hawkin Cake before that start, according to Badilla.

Badilla won the 1994 Kindergarten aboard Cool Papa Bell, one of his 158 stakes wins. He was a dominant jockey for a decade with his four champion riding titles, second only to Kip Didericksen's five titles. Badilla won the 1999 All American Futurity and the 2000 All American Derby aboard A Delightful Dasher, won the 2002 Champion of Champions on Whosleavingwho, and won the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap five times.

Copacorona Special tops futurity

Fastest qualifier Copacorona Special, undefeated in three career starts, should be favored to get his most important victory in the Grade 2, $267,480 Manor Downs Futurity, an important indicator of Texas 2-year-old talent, on Sunday afternoon.

Copacorona Special has been perfect for trainer Bobby Martinez with neck wins in each of his three starts. In his Manor Downs Futurity trial, he opened up a daylight advantage and then ducked out before holding on for the victory in 17.789 seconds for the 350 yards.

Primetime Dream, winner of the Grade 2 Longhorn Futurity on March 19 at Manor Downs, should challenge Copacorona Special for favoritism. He won his Manor Downs Futurity trial by one length in 17.999 seconds,

Also on Sunday, Kathys Star Quest and Corona on Ice, the top two finishers in the Longhorn Derby, meet again in the Grade 2, $123,340 Manor Downs Derby.

Kathys Star Quest won the Longhorn Derby by a neck over Corona on Ice. Kathys Star Quest then won her Manor Downs Derby trial in 17.798 seconds for 350 yards, the second-fastest qualifying time.

Last year, Kathys Star Quest was third in the Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity, fourth in the Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity, and fifth in the Grade 1 TQHA Sale Futurity. In each futurity she was defeated by Azoom, runner-up in champion 2-year-old colt voting.

Corona on Ice topped the Manor Downs Derby qualifiers with a 17.782-second trial win by 1 1/4 lengths.