04/26/2009 11:00PM

Sugar Baby Love a warm-up for Talamo


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Because of horse racing, Ralph Nicks has seen a lot of the United States. His dad, trainer Morris Nicks, took him to racetracks throughout the South and Midwest, and he worked for 14 years for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before opening his own public stable in 2004.

Nicks and his wife, Stacy, make Louisville their primary base but still find themselves on the road frequently. They spent last summer at Delaware Park, last winter at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and for the first time this summer, Nicks will take his main string of runners to Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Until then, Nicks will be trying to make some noise at the Churchill Downs spring meet, and he could get headed in that direction when he sends out Sugar Baby Love as a main contender in the Wednesday feature, a $55,300, third-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Sugar Baby Love, a German-bred owned in part by the Team Valor International syndicate, has 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third from 8 starts since Nicks assumed her training. In her last race, she was third in a Feb. 24 turf allowance at Fair Grounds, and Nicks said she has trained exceptionally well in the interim, most recently over the Keeneland Polytrack.

"She's been coming right along," said Nicks, 42.

Nicks will be giving a leg up to Joe Talamo, the 19-year-old standout jockey from New Orleans by way of Southern California. The ride on Sugar Baby Love will be the first in a race at Churchill for Talamo, who on Saturday will ride the likely Kentucky Derby favorite, I Want Revenge.

Seven fillies and mares are set to oppose Sugar Baby Love in the ninth of 10 Wednesday races. Among the stronger opposition is Sefroua, who figures to benefit from her latest out at Keeneland, and Lickety Lemon, a stakes winner over the Woodbine turf last fall.

Two first-level allowance races directly precede the feature on a program that begins at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The seventh is a competitive turf route for older horses, while Creek Girl should be tough to defeat as the favorite in the eighth, a sprint for fillies and mares.

One stakes race, the Kentucky Juvenile, will be run here Thursday, with six stakes to follow both Friday and Saturday.