04/28/2004 12:00AM

Agent switch helps turn the trick


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It took jockey Kerwin John one week to win three races at Hollywood Park, the same number of wins he had in four months at Santa Anita earlier this year.

"It was really quiet over there," John said of Santa Anita.

The change of luck can be partially attributed to John switching agents. Before the Hollywood Park meeting started, John teamed with Sue McBrayer, a former assistant trainer to Mike Puype. Previously, John had employed Larry White, who works at Hollywood Park on the backstretch stable gate.

John had no takers when he was looking for an agent last fall, so he turned to White, a friend.

"He decided to give me a hand," John said. "It was a little too much for him."

The switch to McBrayer paid off quickly. She helped him get better rides that resulted in the three-win week. Through Sunday, John was tied for fifth in the standings.

Saturday, John will ride Seinne for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally in the $100,000 Inglewood Handicap. John would not have the mount if many of the circuit's top riders were not at Churchill Downs on Saturday, but John did ride a maiden claimer, High and Low Vixen, for McAnally in Wednesday's sixth race.

The early success is a welcome relief for John, who has ridden throughout the nation at tracks such as Finger Lakes, Gulfstream Park, and Mountaineer Park.

"I was just trying to find the right spot," John said.

John is a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he began riding in the early 1990's.

The son of an electrician, John, 28, did not grow up in a racing environment.

"We used to ride horses on the beach on the weekends," he said.

After John realized he had the ideal build for a jockey, he began spending time at Randall "Doc" James Racetrack in St. Croix. It was there that John began his career, even though his father opposed the decision.

"He didn't like it, but after a while he got used to it," John said.

John arrived in Southern California last summer. He rode at Fairplex Park last September, worked horses throughout the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, and had his first local win during the Hollywood Park fall meeting.

Seinne will not be John's only stakes mount in May. He will ride Bobby the Bagger in the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes over five furlongs on May 23. John rode Bobby the Bagger to an upset win in a maiden race on Aug. 22.

It was the first win of the Hollywood Park meeting for John, who has ambitious goals for the meeting.

"I hope to be in the top 10, or the top five," he said. "I hope it stays like this."

Mulhall has two in Inglewood 'Cap

A few hours after trainer Kristin Mulhall has her first Kentucky Derby starter in Imperialism, her California stable will have two starters in the Inglewood Handicap - Statement and Tronare.

Both are capable of winning the Grade 3 turf stakes over 1 1/16 miles.

Statement finished a game second in the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf April 3. Tronare won Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap in a 14-1 upset March 14.

Statement and Tronare will be coupled because Neil Papiano owns a share in both. The other probable starters in the Inglewood are Designed for Luck, Golden Dragon, Irish Warrior, and Just Wonder.

Designed for Luck and Just Wonder share top weight of 118 pounds. Both won graded stakes last year.

Tronare, 6, was entered for an allowance race here April 21, but was withdrawn because of a sore foot, according to Yan Durepaire, Mulhall's assistant.

"We shoed him a few days before the race, and he was a little tender," Durepaire said.

Statement and Tronare have similar styles: they are best as stalkers.

The strategy nearly worked for Statement in the Arcadia. He was third on the backstretch, led in midstretch, but was caught by Diplomatic Bag, who seemed to want more than the Arcadia distance of 1 1/8 miles.

"The other horse just nailed him at the wire," Durepaire said.

A shorter race will help Statement on Saturday, which could be a memorable day for Mulhall.

Trieste's Honor moves to Matz

Trieste's Honor, the winner of the California Derby at Bay Meadows on April 17 in his stakes debut, was transferred earlier this week from trainer Mike Puype to Michael Matz in Kentucky, Puype said.

Owner Gary Biszantz has sold an interest in Trieste's Honor. Biszantz was not available for comment.

Puype said part of the decision to transfer Trieste's Honor is the lack of dirt stakes for 3-year-olds in Southern California in the second half of the year. Aside from the Affirmed Handicap and Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, a majority of the races for the 3-year-old division are run on turf.

Bred by Biszantz, Trieste's Honor has won 3 of 8 starts and $95,330. He has won three consecutive races, including a maiden race and an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in late winter.