02/07/2009 1:00AM

Arterburn making most of modest stable


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Lonnie Arterburn's family tree reads like something from the Who's Who of Racing.

Arterburn's father, Jack, was a top rider before retiring. His uncle, Damon "Buster" Pollard, was a well respected trainer on the West Coast for a number of years, and his brother-in-law, jockey Russell Baze, has led the country in races won numerous times and is the all-time winningest rider in the history of the sport with more than 10,300 career victories.

Arterburn trained for several years with good success on the West Coast, where he was was born and raised. Among his notable horses there were Rings a Chime and Flying Squirrel.

However, Arterburn is an independent sort who dances to his own beat, so several years ago the former rider decided to pack up and head East, where he purchased a 20-acre farm near Ocala, Fla. He has several broodmares there along with runners who are brought there for rehabbing and conditioning over a three-quarter-mile track.

This winter, Arterburn is overseeing a modest but well-balanced group at Tampa. With no superstars in the ranks, the barn has been quietly having a good meeting with 6 winners from 17 starters.

"We're doing all right with what we've got this meeting," Arterburn said after training hours recently. "Tampa is a tough spot to win a race for the money they give away, but we've done all right so far. We'll go back to Presque Isle this summer, we had a good meet there last year and the purse money is solid."

As for his move to Florida, Arterburn said it was a case of several owners dying or getting out of the business and his desire for a change of scenery.

"I had several owners leave the business and I had liked what I had seen in some visits to the Ocala area," he said. "I decided to get some runners I could own myself and keep the stable at a size I could manage. Having 30 or 40 horses is high profile, but it also takes up a lot of time. This way, I'm more hands on with the stock and make the decisions on where to run myself."

Arterburn rides Mike Allen on most of his runners and is pleased with the veteran reinsman.

"Mike's a good speed rider and most of my stock this year are horses with speed, so they fit well," he said.

* Michele Dehn won her third race of the meeting Saturday when she guided Storming Carson to a neck upset in the second race for a whopping $110.40 mutuel. The win was the second this week for the 32-year-old apprentice, and she continues to show improvement as the meeting progresses.

* Jose Vega, another apprentice who has shown promise in limited chances here, is switching his tack to Penn National. Tom Stift, who had Irwin Rosendo's book here last winter when that rider had a good meeting, will handle his engagements.

* Jose Velez Jr., who won two races here Thursday and another Friday, has switched his book to Tony Stabile, a former trainer on the NYRA circuit and a color analyst for the New York OTB radio network.

* Merrill Sample, a top-flight rider for many years in the Midwest and a respected official, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer at the age of 62.