09/08/2005 11:00PM

Flores glad to be back at bullring


POMONA, Calif. - Barreling through the first turn of the fourth race Friday, opening day of the Los Angeles County Fair race meet "was like a flashback," said jockey David Flores. Was it ever.

Flores is back at his old stomping grounds, and his first ride Friday marked a return for the jockey who once dominated the bullring. Flores plans to ride the entire 16-day meet for the first time since 1998. The leading Fairplex rider six straight years (1989-94), and the second-leading rider all time behind Martin Pedroza, Flores adds needed depth to the colony.

"It feels so good to be back," Flores said. "The competition - I love it. Martin is so competitive here I hope I can give him a battle."

Flores rode infrequently at Fairplex the past six years and said one reason for his return is to stay in shape before heading to Keeneland.

He plans to ride three to five horses each day at the Fair, ride the first week of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita, then head to Kentucky for the fall meet at Keeneland.

Flores entered the meet with 291 career wins at Fairplex, second to Pedroza's 431. Flores still leads Pedroza, 52-47, in stakes wins.

Fast pace ideal setup for Willow Rush

It is "willow" week for trainer Vladimir Cerin. Six days after Del Mar Derby winner Willow O Wisp ran himself into consideration for the Breeders' Cup Turf, Cerin will start Willow Rush on Sunday in the $60,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes. A 4-year-old filly, Willow Rush enters the stakes off a runner-up finish in a $40,000 claiming race at Del Mar, and her off-the-pace style may be flattered by the fast pace.

"She's training well, and she's got some pedigree, so if she can get stakes placed, she will be worth quite a bit more," Cerin said.

Willow Rush has won 2 of 20. As for Willow O Wisp, winner of three straight graded stakes against 3-year-olds, Cerin is thinking big. He is thinking Breeders' Cup.

"There's a pretty good chance we will go," Cerin said. Cerin and owner Robert Alexander have not decided whether to start Willow O Wisp again before the Breeders' Cup.

"If it was any other horse, I would say no," Cerin said.

However, Willow O Wisp thrives on activity and Cerin said the 3-year-old could be supplemented (for $5,000) to the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship on Oct. 2. "You have to run against older, but you have to do that in the Breeders' Cup anyway."

Dream of Summer to New York

While training a small string at Fairplex Park on Friday morning, Juan Garcia plotted a New York campaign that could have championship ramifications for Apple Blossom Handicap winner Dream of Summer. California-bred, Dream of Summer will ship to Belmont for the Grade 1 Beldame on Oct. 1, and Garcia said owner Jim Weigel is prepared to supplement Dream of Summer for $180,000 to make her eligible to the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"We're going to supplement," Garcia said, "and if we can beat Ashado again [Dream of Summer] would be a contender for the filly and mare championship."

Dream of Summer was scheduled to work at Santa Anita on Saturday morning. Garcia said Dream of Summer would be ridden in the Beldame by Corey Nakatani.

King Robyn on comeback trail

King Robyn may never top the record he set during a memorable 2003 campaign, but the stakes-winning sprinter is training super as he aims for his first start in more than a year. King Robyn was pulling his exercise rider out of the saddle in a Friday morning gallop, looking "like he wants to get on with it," trainer Jeff Mullins said.

King Robyn won stakes at all six Southern California race meets in 2003 - the San Pedro during Santa Anita winter; Harry Henson, at Hollywood Park spring-summer; the Green Flash at Del Mar; the Foothill at Fairplex; the Grade 3 Morvich during at Oak Tree; and the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express at Hollywood fall. King Robyn earned $436,990 by winning 8 of 11 that year, but was vanned the track in May 2004.

Mullins said King Robyn was tired and expects the 5-year-old to return to form this meet. King Robyn will be nominated to the $60,000 Governor's Cup Handicap on Sept. 25.

Jockeys raise money for Red Cross

The Southern California jockey colony and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club raised more than $100,000 for Red Cross Hurricane Katrina relief during a fund-raising drive over the final weekend of the meet.

Jockey Luis Jauregui was among those who coordinated the event, which featured a jockey dunk tank and raffle.

"Del Mar really stepped up, and so did the Del Mar fans," Jauregui said. "We needed to be a part of it."