Diaz hopes history repeats itself with Baby J
Baby J debuted a half-length winner on Thursday at Belmont Park for retired jockey Juvenal Diaz, but if all goes according to plan the filly will soon be carrying somebody else's colors, the former rider said on Friday.
"I never keep them," Diaz said. "If I do keep one, it's because I can't sell them!"
On Thursday, Baby J took the lead a sixteenth of a mile into the race, repelled a pair of challengers nearing the quarter-pole, and was driven home by jockey Junior Alvarado to hold off a late bid from Seasoned Warrior. Baby J became the first winner for her freshman sire, Grade 2 victor J Be K.
Diaz, who rode Meadowlake and Black Tie Affair and won 3,164 races while competing primarily in the Chicago area, is no stranger to picking out top-level runners early.
He bought Two Item Limit for $20,000 as a yearling in 1999 before selling her for $50,000 at auction the following spring. Two Item Limit went on to win four graded stakes, place in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Distaff and four other Grade 1 races, and earn a shade over $1 million.
Diaz also purchased Blind Luck for $11,000 at a yearling sale in 2008, then sold the filly privately following her 13 1/4-length debut victory against maiden claimers at Calder. Blind Luck later became champion three-year-old filly after winning races such as the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama, and earned $3.2 million over the course of her three-year career.
To stay within his budget while scouting horses at auctions, Diaz said he focuses on horses who are athletic instead of horses with top pedigrees or who have perfect conformation, with Baby J being a perfect example.
"(Baby J is) a very athletic, racy filly," Diaz said. "She's very fluid and nice moving. That's the kind of horse I try to buy. Blind Luck was the same way, but she was on the smaller side and was very gangly when I bought her.
"Baby J was more mature and she always trained forwardly. She was ready before I ever breezed her."
Diaz said he hoped to sell Baby J for $70,000 at Fasig-Tipton's Florida sale in March, but she failed to meet her reserve when the bidding stopped at $65,000.
"She worked awfully good and had one of the best gallop outs (video), but the buyers didn't like her conformation, so they walked," Diaz remarked. "They want them to look like a model, but she didn't."
Following the auction, Diaz placed Baby J with trainer Michelle Nihei. The retired rider said Nihei worked tirelessly to help Baby J overcome her fear of the starting gate, and for that he hopes the filly's new owner, whoever it may be, will keep her in Nihei's barn.
"I got a lot of calls (after the race), and I hope I can sell her to somebody who will keep her with Michelle because she put a lot of work into her," Diaz said. "She was scared to go into the gate, so we schooled her at the gate almost every day. She had always trained the way you'd like to see them train, but you never know until they actually race."
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