10/17/2006 11:00PM

Apprentice Bridgmohan fast out of gate

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MIAMI - For the first time since early May, a name other than Cruz sits atop the Calder jockey standings after red-hot apprentice Jermaine Bridgmohan kicked off the Tropical at Calder meeting with a hat trick on Monday. The Calder meet ended Sunday.

Bridgmohan, who finished ninth in the standings during the Calder session despite not accepting his first mount until three months into the meet, figures to give Manoel Cruz a run for his money to defend the Tropical title that he won last season by a single victory over Jorge Chavez.

Cruz, who averaged nearly two victories a day while running away with the jockey championship during the Calder session, began the Tropical meet right where he left off, winning the opener aboard the 7-year-old Love That Moon and adding a second tally later on the card. But Bridgmohan did him one better on opening day, getting Random Annie home on top with a hedge-hugging ride on the grass before returning to win aboard favorites Red Liquor N' Lace and Precise Dancing.

Bridgmohan, who will ride with a five-pound bug for the remainder of the meet after losing two pounds of his apprentice allowance last week, could square off against Cruz as many as seven times on Friday's card. They will not face each other in the featured sixth race, however, unless the $30,500 allowance event gets switched to the main track. Bridghmohan is named aboard Leona's Knight, who is entered in the grass race for the main track only. Cruz will handle the versatile veteran Out of Pride.

Friday's headliner also features some innovative conditions from racing secretary Mike Anifantis. The race is written for fillies and mares that have not won a race on the turf other than maiden, claiming, or starter since Jan. 1; or three races other than maiden claiming or starter; or for horses racing under a $50,000 claiming tag.

The first clause of the conditions is perfect for a filly like Skip Command, who won her three-other-than condition here last year but is winless thus far in 2006. Out of Pride, a 20-time career winner, is eligible for the race as the only member of the field entered with a price on her head.

The remainder of the lineup includes Kat Princess, Miss Bradford Co., Prospect of Love, Survicat, and Winnow.

Simulcast business boosts Calder's numbers

All-sources average handle, including all simulcasting, was off 1 percent for the 112-day Calder meet compared with 2005. Average handle from all sources on Calder's races was up 2 percent.

The track showed gains in average in-state simulcast handle on Calder's races (2 percent) and average handle on simulcasts on other tracks (9 percent). Ontrack live handle fell fractionally, and average ontrack attendance for live racing declined 3 percent.

Average daily purses were up almost 13 percent from the previous year to $237,001 daily.

"While our daily attendance dropped slightly, ontrack wagering on our live races held relatively steady and our overall results were helped by strong full-card wagering by customers at Calder and around the state at other simulcast locations," said Calder president Ken Dunn.

Calder also experimented with a three-day live schedule for a portion of the summer, during which average field sizes swelled to 9.0 starters per race.

"We are pleased with the initial results from our abbreviated midsummer schedule and are looking at ways to duplicate and hopefully improve upon those results next year," said Dunn.

Joining Cruz with meet-end honors were Bill White, who captured his 10th trainer title at Calder, and owner Richard Averill.