03/07/2009 12:00AM

Feliciano doing a lot with a little


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Trainer Benny R. Feliciano was granted just five stalls for the Tampa Bay Downs meeting but he has made the most of his opportunities. When Feliciano, a former jockey, sent out Richie London to win the fourth race on Friday, it gave him seven winners from just 18 starts for a winning percentage of 38.

Feliciano was quick to give his son, the jockey Ricardo Feliciano, a lot of the credit. Ricardo rides most of his dad's horses.

"Ricardo and myself get on all our stock in the morning," Feliciano said. "He is good at pointing out the little things that we might have to work on with a given horse to make them better. I'm very proud of him, of the way he has developed into a good, solid rider, and I feel very confident in him on our horses.

Feliciano, 58, began training in 1999, and he has maintained a small but very successful operation. He has won at a rate of over 20 percent in five of the past six years - winning at a 34 percent clip in 2006 and 32opercent in 2005 - and looks headed to another 20 percent-plus year. He had his best year from a money perspective last year, with stable earnings of $208,916.

As to his stable here, Feliciano said, "We don't have any superstars, but we're having a good meeting and hopefully will go back to Mountaineer this summer."

Times haven't always been so good for Feliciano.

Back in the early '70s, Feliciano was at the top of his game as a jockey. A perennial power at Thistledown, Feliciano also rode with success around the Midwest, including the Chicago tracks.

Then one day in Chicago, the authorities searched a vehicle that Feliciano had driven to the track and found a prohibited electrical device. While the rider professed his innocence, he was suspended indefinitely from the racetrack. Feliciano stayed in racing by moving to Ocala and galloping and breaking horses on farms, and making some modest purchases with an eye to pinhooking them. For more than a decade he fought for reinstatement and was finally given permission to return to the track as an exercise rider, and was given back his jockey license in the early '90s. After riding with limited success for several years, Feliciano moved to the training side of the business.

"While I missed being at the track during those bad years, I also learned a lot about horsemanship and about working with horses from the ground up," he said. "It was a valuable experience, even if the times were tough."

* Mike Straight, a graduate of Chris McCarron's North American Racing Academy, won on the first mount of his career Friday, piloting Ready Ruler ($54.80) to a 1 1/4-length victory in the sixth race. Ready Ruler and Proud Aly ($33), winner of the fifth race, combined for a track-record daily double payoff of $6,638.60.