04/01/2004 12:00AM

Wilson, Balmy team up in Primonetta


After missing the month of March while recovering from minor leg surgery 50-year-old jockey Rick Wilson was back in the saddle for opening day at Pimlico earlier this week. The best possible welcome back present Wilson could receive would be a stakes victory as he begins his stretch run toward the career milestone of 5,000 wins.

Riding for Philadelphia Park-based trainer John Servis, Wilson has a good shot to inch closer to his goal aboard Balmy in Saturday's $50,000 Primonetta, a six-furlong stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico.

Wilson, who needed 72 wins to become the 20th jockey in racing history to reach 5,000 following Wednesday's program, has formed a highly successful combination with Servis in the past. His record on Servis-trained horses is 16-8-7 in 51 mounts

Although Wilson has never ridden Balmy before, the 5-year-old mare is a proven performer at Pimlico. Balmy won last year's Primonetta, one of four victories during a campaign in which she also captured the Garland of Roses in New York.

In two starts this season, Balmy earned one of her best Beyer Speed Figures - a 91 - for her third-place finish in the Correction Handicap at Aqueduct and flashed speed for a half-mile before tiring in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.

The horse Balmy and four others must beat is Bronze Abe, who has three wins and a close second in her last six starts. Bronze Abe, a 5-year-old trained by Bud Delp, must carry high weight 124 pounds after winning the seven-furlong restricted Conniver Stakes in her last start on March 7. In her most recent race at six furlongs, Bronze Abe earned a 91 Beyer, winning the What a Summer at Laurel.

Bronze Abe prepped for the Primonetta with a 47-second bullet workout at Laurel last weekend. That's a tipoff she's sitting on a big race, according to jockey Eric Rodriguez.

"When she works well in the morning she seems to be tough in the afternoon," said Rodriguez, who has won 5 of 11 starts on Bronze Abe. "This is the best distance for her, and she loves Pimlico."

Search for a Cure finished within a half-length of Bronze Abe in the Conniver and could turn the tables if she moves forward at all in the second start of her current form cycle.

Hidden Ransom will be dangerous if she can come close to the race she ran two starts ago in the slop at Gulfstream Park, where she beat high-priced optional claimers and got a career-best 95 Beyer.