01/01/2007 12:00AM

Add Desormeaux to deep rider roster


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - During his 20-year Hall of Fame riding career, Kent Desormeaux has hung his tack at an array of racetracks across the world, from New York to California to Kentucky and even to Japan. But one place where he has never been an everyday rider is Gulfstream Park - until Wednesday, when he rides in six races on opening day.

Desormeaux, 36, committed in early December to the Gulfstream meet, partly because the trainer who became his main client over the last year in New York, John Kimmel, is here with his best horses - notably, Premium Tap - but also because it was Desormeaux's most logical option. Many of the top New York jockeys ride at Gulfstream each winter, including Edgar Prado and John Velazquez, who figure to battle once again for leading-rider honors.

Moreover, Desormeaux has never been afraid to try something new. In January 1990, he left the comfort of extreme dominance in Maryland for the far tougher Southern California circuit, where he then spent more than a decade solidifying his Hall of Fame credentials before bouncing around to several different places. He most recently settled on New York, where he registered the bulk of his 135 wins and $8.5 million in mount earnings in 2006.

Desormeaux isn't the only new name on the Gulfstream roster for 2007. Another notable newcomer is Fernando Jara, the 19-year-old native of Panama who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2006 by winning the Belmont Stakes on Jazil, the Whitney and Breeders' Cup Classic aboard Invasor, and the Alcibiades Stakes on Bel Air Beauty. Overall, Jara won 86 races for earnings of nearly $8.7 million.

Jara, who rode at Aqueduct through Dec. 17 before returning to Panama for the holidays, was named on only one mount on the Wednesday opener - Surely Sent in the seventh race. Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Invasor and Jazil, will be Jara's main source of top mounts.

"Jara is our go-to rider," said McLaughlin.

Gatewood Bell, 25, is Jara's new agent, replacing Randy Romero.

Another new face at Gulfstream is one that has grown very familiar in recent months to South Florida racing fans: Jermaine Bridgmohan, who caught on quickly at nearby Calder, where he won 146 races and nearly $2 million in purses after launching his riding career in late July. His 105 wins going into the final two days of the Tropical-at-Calder meet Monday and Tuesday led all jockeys.

Unlike Desormeaux and Jara, Bridgmohan is unproven at a major venue, but he said that he is "very excited" to become part an elite jockey colony at Gulfstream.

"Obviously it's a different level over there at Gulfstream," said Bridgmohan, 18. "But I'm ready to do lots of good. There is a ton of good jockeys riding there, and I feel like I can only get better by watching them and listening to what they have to teach me. I really want to take my riding to the next level."

Bridgmohan, the younger brother of jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, was named to ride in all but one of the opening-day races. He said he was very happy about how he fared at Calder and was "sad to see it end."

"But I am happy about moving to Gulfstream," he said. "I think there are a lot of guys there who can help me become a better rider."

Bridgmohan, whose agent is Cory Moran, was born in Jamaica but grew up in nearby Plantation, where he graduated high school in May.