08/01/2002 12:00AM

After injury, Potts riding strong again


After experiencing life as the big fish in a small pond, jockey Clinton Potts was poised to make a big career move. He had just finished the 2000 season with 368 winners, second in the country behind Russell Baze. Potts was also the dominant rider at Penn National Race Course.

As the calendar turned to 2001, Potts was already making plans to ride full time at Delaware Park as soon as the track opened in the spring. Six weeks into the new year, however, Potts's plans were derailed.

On Valentine's Day, Potts severely injured his right forearm in a spill at Penn National. Potts was unable to ride for 4 1/2 months, and when he returned, he still experienced pain. So he put his plans on hold.

Last January, Potts underwent surgery to strengthen the arm and eliminate the pain. "The doctors put a plate in my arm basically from the elbow to close to the wrist. It's about four inches long," Potts said.

If the 30-year-old Potts needed any extra incentive to complete his rehabilitation and resume riding, he got it in the form of a phone call from Scott Lake, whose 407 winners led the national trainer standings in 2001. Lake offered Potts first call on the horses he planned to stable at Delaware Park. The only catch was Potts had to be ready to ride when the meet opened in late April.

"I actually started back riding in mid-April," Potts said. "I set a goal to win about 60 races, which is a modest goal, but that was my goal. I have to say, I've exceeded my expectations."

Through Wednesday, Potts has ridden 43 winners and ranks fifth in the standings, behind only Ramon Dominguez, Mike McCarthy, Anthony Black, and Jeremy Rose.

"Half the races I've won here have been for Scott Lake, who brought me here, and the other half have been for various other trainers," Potts said. "So we've been building a steady business which should set us up pretty well for future meets at Delaware."

Familiar rivals meet in Sussex

Mus-If and Dr. Kashnikow, who finished within a half-length of each other in the Grade 3 New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park, are rematched in Saturday's $100,000 Sussex Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Mus-If, trained by Michael Pino, had won four in a row until he finished second to Del Mar Show in the New Hampshire. Del Mar Show returned to win last Friday's Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga.

Dr. Kashnikow is winless in three starts this season, but is coming off his best performance with a third-place finish behind Del Mar Show and Mus-If.

Sarkaukar looks dangerous after prepping for this race with a sharp allowance win over Delaware's turf course. Undefeated in three starts at nine furlongs, Sarkaukar finished within a length of Key Lory in his only other start this year, the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth.

* Say Florida Sandy, the richest New York-bred in history, won the 30th race of his career when he cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory in a six-furlong money allowance at Delaware on Wednesday's card. The 8-year-old Say Florida Sandy earned a 100 Beyer Figure by covering six furlongs in 1:10.44.