07/24/2002 12:00AM

Fairmount track report


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - An unusual aspect of this year's Fairmount meet is the number of apprentice riders enjoying success. Fairmount is not known for regularly producing young riding talent or even as a friendly place for "bug" riders, but currently there are three apprentices in the standings.

Jesse Wheat Jr. leads all apprentices with 39 wins while Heather Irion and Argelio "Gino" Velasquez are tied at 27. Irion had been the leading apprentice before being sidelined in early June due to a training hours accident. A fourth, apprentice, Jorge Carreno, won his first race here last month.

Two apprentices won their first career races on Tuesday's program. Renee Torbit scored her first winner in the fifth aboard longshot Knockwood ($90.60). Torbit had some anxious moments after the race when the stewards conducted an inquiry as two horses had steadied behind her entering the far turn, but after a review they found Torbit not to be at fault. Torbit, 23, from Salem, Mo., grew up around horses and came to the race track five years ago to work towards a career as a jockey. Trainer Dick Collins put Torbit on her first winner.

Iram Diego, 21, won with his first career mount in the 10th race, going wire-to-wire in a two-turn route race aboard Pleasure's Drummer.

In a strange twist, Pleasure's Drummer, trained by Heather Irion's mother, Sue, is the horse Irion rode to his first win last September.

Diego is a native of Gerero, Mexico, who first came to America five years ago and has split his time as an exercise rider between Fairmount and the Chicago circuit.