06/28/2001 11:00PM

Clark integral part of Team Include


ELMONT, N.Y. - He is well removed from his days as a prime-time jockey, but Kerwin Clark is playing a primary role in the development of one of the top handicap horses in the country.

Clark, 42, is the work rider for Include, who brings a five-race race winning streak into Sunday's Grade 2 $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Despite being based in New Orleans, Clark is flown up to Maryland at the expense of trainer Buddy Delp to work Include.

Delp said that Clark rode for him in the late 1980's, and Clark won two stakes in 1990 - the Canterbury Cup at Canterbury Downs and the Tolomeo at Arlington - on the Delp-trained Dispersal.

"He started working [Include] in New Orleans and has done a good job," Delp said. "He does this as a favor to me."

A winner of 1,671 races in this country and a couple of hundred more in Saudi Arabia, Clark is now a semi-retired rider whose main job is as a foreman in a demolition company in his native New Orleans. Clark still rides occasionally - he is 5 for 65 this year - mostly for his future sister-in-law, who owns some horses.

"You never get the racing business out of your blood when you've been in it as long as me," Clark said.

Clark began working Include this winter in New Orleans, where Delp had a string of horses. Include won both the Whirlaway Stakes and the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds before returning to the Northeast.

"Mr. Delp thought he was going to be a nice horse; I don't think he thought he was going to be this good," Clark said.

Clark knows about good horses. He was the work rider for Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and that year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

Clark began riding when he was 16. His best stretch of success came from 1987-91 when he won 857 races, including 219 in 1990. Among his biggest wins was the 1989 Pennsylvania Derby aboard Western Playboy. The following year he finished second behind Rhythm in the $1.1 million Travers Stakes aboard Shot Gun Scott, who was 55-1.

Clark flew to Maryland Tuesday night and on Wednesday drilled Include four furlongs in 47.20 seconds, the best of 28 works that morning at Laurel Park.

"I never toot my horn, I never do," Clark said. "But they're really going to have to run fast to beat him. I think he's better now than he was before."