Updated on 09/17/2011 11:04AM

Closing in on the ultimate Grade 1


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Rosemary Homeister Jr. is the undisputed First Lady of the south Florida jockey colony. On Saturday she also hopes to become the first woman to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby when she rides Supah Blitz for trainer Manny Tortora in the marquee race of the Gulfstream Park meeting.

Homeister, a native of nearby Hollywood, Fla., has been the dominant female rider on the south Florida circuit since she returned home in 1996 after spending four summers on the New Jersey circuit. A winner of an Eclipse Award as the top apprentice in the nation in 1992, Homeister topped all female riders in victories in both 2000 and 2001, and won the overall Hialeah riding title in 2001. She also has the second-highest lifetime earnings for a female jockey - only Julie Krone has more - with more than $24 million

Homeister, 30, won the first Grade 2 race of her career here last February when she rode Ms Brookski to victory in the Davona Dale Stakes. Her second Grade 2 win came 10 months later aboard New Economy in Calder's La Prevoyante Handicap.

But it is Supah Blitz whom Homeister is counting on to help her accomplish two of her biggest dreams: to win a Grade 1 race and to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

Homeister came close to accomplishing her first goal when she finished second aboard 30-1 Supah Blitz in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 15. Twenty-four hours later she guided another outsider, Just Listen, to a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"I almost never look at the tote board when I ride," Homeister said. "In fact I usually don't even know what the purses are for the races I ride, although I do know the purse for the Florida Derby is $1 million. The main thing I'm interested in when I read the Daily Racing Form is getting a general idea who the speed horses are in a race and what position I need to be in. The only reason I knew Supah Blitz was 30-1 in the Fountain of Youth was because Manny mentioned it in the paddock. The price meant nothing to me. I was very confident because I knew I was riding a very good horse and he had a very big chance to win."

Homeister put in a textbook perfect ride aboard Supah Blitz in the Fountain of Youth, racing on the rail every step of the way. Supah Blitz finished second to Trust N Luck, who was allowed to shake loose on an uncontested lead.

Tortora is confident that Homeister will give his horse another good ride on Saturday.

"Rosemary's won a lot of races for me and fits this horse well," said Tortora, who also had a lot of success over the years with jockey Mary Russ before her retirement and Homeister's arrival in south Florida. "She knows how to keep a horse out of trouble, and that's important in a race like the Florida Derby, when you've not only got to have a good horse but you've got to get lucky too."

Homeister and Supah Blitz have formed a potent team since being united by Tortora last summer. The pair have finished no worse than second in five tries together and they won Calder's seven-furlong Jack Price Juvenile Stakes last fall.

"He's probably the easiest horse I've ever ridden," said Homeister. "He's very relaxed and he can do whatever you want with him. He'll run on the inside or the outside, from far back or close to the pace, on turf or dirt. And he always does it so effortlessly. That's why I gave him the nickname Supahman."

Homeister will become only the third female rider to have a mount in the Florida Derby when she climbs aboard Supah Blitz on Saturday. Robyn Smith was the first, finishing 12th on Sir Jason in 1974. Julie Krone was the most recent when she rode Duc d'Sligovil to a seventh-place finish in 1993.

"I really don't like to genderize myself when it comes to riding," said Homeister. "The media tends to make more out of that sort of thing than I do, although it would be a great honor if I could become the first female rider to win the Florida Derby. It would also be great if my first Grade 1 win came in this particular race, since Florida is my home."

Win or lose on Saturday, Homeister is not planning on leaving her home any time soon.

"My family is here, I have a home down here, and I do very well here, so I really don't want to leave south Florida," said Homeister.

Her mother, Rosemary Sr., is a trainer on the south Florida circuit, and her husband, jockey Jose Ferrer, also rides in south Florida.

But, Homeister, said, "I will travel."

One place Homeister is hoping to be traveling to is Louisville on the first Saturday in May. She would become only the fifth female jockey ride in the Kentucky Derby and the first since Krone rode Suave Prospect to an 11th-place finish in 1995.

"It would be like a dream come true," said Homeister. "It's not often any rider at Calder is in a position to possibly have a mount in the Derby. I'm just hoping I can make the most of the opportunity with Supah Blitz because I don't know if or when I'll ever get this kind of chance again."