08/16/2005 11:00PM

Fairmount Park track report


Rafael Hernandez, who began the year as an apprentice jockey and had 93 wins through Tuesday, is on pace to surpass the current win total of 102 by Ramsey Zimmerman, Fairmount Park's perennial top jock, by the close of the meet on Sept. 17 and claim the riding title.

Hernandez is winning races despite top owner Lou O'Brien giving the lion's share of his mounts to jockey Roberto Villafan, who is 52 for 255 at the meet. Villafan rode a Zimmerman-esque five winners on last Saturday night's card. Zimmerman rode first call for O'Brien before recently losing his license because of a positive drug test for methadone. An appeal is pending.

"Robby's a tremendous businessman and loves to win," said O'Brien, who summoned Villafan to Hoosier to ride for him during Zimmerman's 2003 drug suspension there. "A guy does me a favor like he did for me at Hoosier, I have a tendency to stay with him. I think he's an undiscovered talent, and he gets better as he goes."

* Lady Riss, the 4-year-old filly who topped a stellar field of older males in the July 23 Pete Condellone Memorial and who is a virtual lock for horse-of-the-year honors, was also a winner Saturday night. Not wanting to rush her back on two weeks' rest for the Aug. 6 Circle C Stakes, trainer Leroy Hellman picked a relatively cushy spot for his stable's star: A $15,000 overnight handicap, which she won by a neck as the heavy favorite.

With 6 wins in 7 starts at the current Fairmount meet, the filly's $105,540 in earnings is the highest single-season total at the track since at least 1976, as far back as can be determined.

But it appears that Lady Riss will not earn another dime at the meet.

"We're going to ship from now on," Hellman said. "She's probably going to run some stakes in Kansas and Chicago, but we haven't decided on her next race just yet."