04/12/2005 11:00PM

Fairmount Park track report


For most jockeys, a week that includes 13 victories in four days of racing would qualify as a career highlight. But for Fairmount Park's perennial top jockey, Ramsey Zimmerman, such eye-popping proficiency is old hat.

Zimmerman has won 32 of his first 85 races (38 percent) during Fairmount's still-young 2005 meet, the majority of which have come aboard claiming horses owned by Lou O'Brien and trained by Ralph Martinez. O'Brien and Martinez have been winning at a 45-percent (26 for 58) clip through Saturday night.

"This is so comfortable for me," said Zimmerman, who enjoyed a decent winter as Hoosier Park's top jockey before moving on to more mild success at Turfway Park. "Ralph and Lou care about me, and my little family cares about them."

That little family includes Zimmerman's wife, Bacarra - a former jockey and current Fairmount racing official - and their 3-month-old son, Ryder Hayes Zimmerman. All of the Zimmerman boys have first names that begin with the letter R, including Ramsey's brother Riley, an apprentice steeplechase jockey who has been training recently under Jonathan Sheppard in South Carolina.

"I give Riley all the advice I can," said Ramsey Zimmerman.

Zimmerman considers himself qualified to pontificate on the finer points of jump riding because of a bizarre off-season workout regimen he has dubbed "extreme trail riding." It turns out a friend of Zimmerman's owns some wooded acreage in nearby Belleville. These woods have no marked trails, which is actually a bonus for Zimmerman, who has spent many free afternoons riding horses through (and over) the thorny terrain with whomever he can coax into the wilderness.

"If there's a log in front of use, we just jump it," said Zimmerman, who has been most successful convincing jockey Jeremy Acridge to join him. "Every time you get on a horse, you get that much better."

Recently, Zimmerman and Acridge decided to cut across a thick cornfield on one of their uncharted gallops, much to the chagrin of the cornfield's owner, who hopped in his tractor and began chasing the pair through eye-high shocks of corn.

"We were riding blind for like a half-hour," said Zimmerman with a laugh. "It was just like cowboys and Indians."