08/13/2001 11:00PM

Three Jersey-breds have a shot in Sapling


OCEANPORT, N.J. - If a New Jersey-bred wins Saturday's Grade 3 $150,000 Sapling for 2-year-olds at Monmouth Park, don't be too surprised. Well-bred New Jersey juveniles that have the talent to do well in open company have become more common.

The three expected state-bred starters for the six-furlong Sapling, the premier race for 2-year-olds here, are Lil Badger, Wild Navigator, and Capture the Silver. Lil Badger and Capture the Silver have already experienced success outside the state-bred ranks, while Wild Navigator's Sapling start will be his first time in open company. Yet each colt has a legitimate chance to become the first Jersey-bred to win the Sapling.

With the large purses reserved for Jersey-breds, more quality breeding is being arranged. This year, purses for Jersey-bred maidens and allowance races usually range from $45,500 to $50,000. Furthermore, certain open company allowances boast an $8,000 bonus for Jersey-breds who win outside state-bred allowances. In the past, many trainers had no desire for Jersey-breds. Now, a decent Jersey-bred that can clear his conditions can rack up a nice sum of money.

Wild Navigator and Capture the Silver, both trained by John Mazza, were bred at Holly Crest Farm in Locust, N.J. The farm, which opened 35 years ago and is owned by Vincent Annarella and Rosemary Shockley, acts a nursery for foals. The mares are sent to Kentucky to breed, and then come back to the farm to have the Jersey-bred foals. Once they become yearlings, the horses are sent to Clover Leaf Farm in Ocala, Fla., to be broken.

Mazza first receives the horses at his barn as 2-year-olds in March and April. Holly Crest Farm owns Capture the Silver, who is by Silver Ghost and is the last foal out of the mare Countess B.B. Roron Stables owns Wild Navigator, a son of Wild Zone, but bred him at the farm.

"We have upgraded breeding the last few years, and it is starting to pay off," Mazza said. "The mares we owned as babies have turned out to be quality broodmares."

When the two standouts arrived at his barn, Mazza had an idea they would be good colts. "Capture the Silver was a little bit behind when we first saw him at Ocala, but when we breezed him, he started showing us some class," he said. "We could tell all along, by the way he moved, that Wild Navigator was focused and had some ability."

Capture the Silver is 2 for 2 so far, with a maiden win and allowance win versus open company. Wild Navigator was defeated by Lil Badger in his first start, and then returned to win his maiden. Both starts were in Jersey-bred maidens.

Mazza said that the number of 2-year-olds in his barn is the most he has had in a long time. Along with the two Sapling starters, he has four other unraced juveniles. In the future, he expects even more quality 2-year-olds, as Capture the Gold has become the Holly Crest Farm stallion, and his foals this year have been exceptional.

Lil Badger, trained by Mary Hartmann, was bred at Hidden Valley Farm by Cathy Hock. The bloodlines of Lil Badger, by Lil Fappi out of Bonnie Badger, didn't signal greatness, but the colt has displayed tremendous potential in two starts. He won his maiden versus Jersey-breds, and then ran very greenly in the Tyro Stakes, yet was only beaten two lengths back in fourth. Hartmann isn't sure yet whether he will be equipped with blinkers for the Sapling.

Jim Crupi trained Lil Badger's mother, and he bought Lil Badger from Hock and broke him for owners John Sands and Frank Vigilante. When Hartmann received Lil Badger, she was impressed with his work ethic.

"I had heard about him all winter," she said. "The first time I breezed him, I knew he was all right. He is all racehorse and sticks to business."

Pure Precision works briskly

Last Saturday was a busy workout day for expected Sapling starters, as four put in works over a track labeled good.

The most impressive workout came from Tyro winner Pure Precision. The track on Saturday was very deep and slow, yet Pure Precision fired a bullet 59.40 seconds for five furlongs. He recorded the last half in a rapid 45.60. Eibar Coa was aboard for the workout, and he will be in the reins for the first time in the Sapling.

Jose Velez Jr., who was on Pure Precision in the Tyro, will instead be riding Vinemeister, trained by Alan Seewald. Vinemeister went three furlongs in 36.80 over a muddy track in his final workout Monday.

"We kept him off the fence because the inside was wetter and deeper this morning," trainer John Tammaro said. "It was a good work and he looks like he's coming into the Sapling the right way."

Wild Navigator, working in company with unraced Toast the Queen, and Capture the Silver both worked five furlongs in 1:02.20. Lil Badger, fourth in the Tyro, went the same distance from the gate, with blinkers on. He started slowly, but finished up in 1:01.20 and galloped out in 1:15 with Carlos Marquez aboard.

Down at Calder, the Larry Pilotti-trained Juggernaut worked 1:16.80 for six furlongs in preparation for the Sapling. Juggernaut, who defeated Pure Precision in the Criterium Stakes at Calder, was scheduled to ship to Monmouth late Tuesday.

Doc Wild, runner-up in the Tyro, worked 1:02.60 on Sunday in his last workout for the Sapling.

The field for the Sapling is expected to include nine or 10 starters. Outstander, third in the Tyro, is expected along with the other top four finishers in the Sapling prep. Thunder Days is the likeliest starter from Ronny Werner's barn at Saratoga, and eight-time Sapling winner D. Wayne Lukas's possible entrant is Truman's Raider. Just Le Facts, trained by Dennis Manning, is a possibility.