07/15/2004 12:00AM

Senor Ladd can take control


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Saturday's $40,000 Rudy Baez Stakes could determine the best 3-year-old in New England when nine locals meet in the mile and 70-yard race.

Senor Ladd is the horse to beat after winning the African Prince Stakes against Massachusetts-breds June 5. That sprint victory was the gelding's second straight and fourth score from 10 lifetime starts. Senor Ladd has a chance to prove himself as more than just a good statebred for the meet's leading trainer, John Rigattieri.

"Among the 3-year-olds, I think he's one of the best around here," said Rigattieri. "I always thought he was a decent horse, but he's done some developing as he's gone along, and I definitely think he's one of the best right now. He won an open allowance in Maryland."

Senor Ladd won in his debut last August, then finished second to the eventual New England 2-year-old champion Strongestsoverign in the Norman Hall Stakes. He proved he had developed a bit more than Strongestsovereign when the two met in the African Prince. If Senor Ladd wins Saturday, he will be the first two-time stakes winner of the meet.

Senor Ladd also gets a chance to vanquish another regional title-holder, with last year's 2-year-old filly champion, Lady Beelzebub, going in the Baez against males.

Lady Beelzebub was a close third in the Suffolk Downs Oaks on July 3, a mile and 70-yard turf race with five fillies separated by a neck at the wire. She coasted to an allowance victory before that for trainer Frank Dullea. Jockey Vernon Bush is expected to be aboard despite not riding this past week because of back spasms.

Isitdustybackthere has flourished since being claimed by trainer Marcus Vitali for the May May Stable, with a second-place finish and two victories. The wins produced the colt's lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figures (86 and 87), and both are better than anything the others in the field have run. Isitdustybackthere will be coupled in the wagering with Settle Down.

In addition to Senor Ladd, Rigattieri will also saddle Myboybruno, who won his first start at Suffolk after racing with trainer Tim Ritvo in Florida.

Rounding out the field are Best Call, Anger, Bold Explorer, and B. J.'s Secret.

* The race is named for the former top jockey in New England, Rudy Baez, who was paralyzed in a racing accident at Rockingham Park in 1999. He is now the clerk of scales at Suffolk Downs.