06/21/2005 11:00PM

Fairmount Park track report


Ever since Tommy Pompell began skipping the start of Fairmount Park's meet in order to remain at Tampa Bay Downs as first-call rider for Tampa's leading trainer, Don Rice, a discernible statistical trend has emerged at Fairmount. From the beginning of the meet at the end of March through mid-May or so, Ralph Martinez's barn and its primary rider, Ramsey Zimmerman, absolutely dominate the trainer and jockey standings.

During this period, four victories in a day's work are hardly exceptional for Martinez and Zimmerman. Hardly exceptional, that is, until Pompell hits town.

A native of nearby McLeansboro, Ill., whose father was a jockey at Cahokia Downs in the 1960's and 1970's, Pompell won riding titles at Fairmount in 1998 and 2000. He likely would have won in 1999, too, had he not ventured to Ellis Park to ride for Rice's barn.

Rice eventually invited Pompell to Tampa to take over as his first-call rider there in late 2000, thus providing an opening at the top of Fairmount's jockey standings that has recently been the exclusive, wire-to-wire domain of Zimmerman.

This year should prove no different, as Zimmerman currently has a 30-win cushion atop the standings (83 wins in 310 starts) despite a relatively pedestrian past month for the Martinez barn. Part of that cooling-off can be attributed to the arrival of Pompell (25 wins in 117 starts). To wit, four-baggers by Zimmerman nowadays have become the rarities they are supposed to be.

"Zimmerman wouldn't be leading rider, I'm telling you," said trainer Steve Manley, when asked if Pompell - who rides first call for Manley - would be atop the leaderboard had he arrived on time for the start of Fairmount's meet.

Zimmerman's agent, Mark Cooper, disagrees slightly.

"Tommy might be leading by now, but personally, I don't think so," said Cooper, when posed with the same earlier-arrival scenario. "I like Tommy. He's more mature than Ramsey. But Ramsey's got more talent than anyone I've seen around here in a long time."