11/20/2007 12:00AM

Follow these rising stars

EmailAs we move closer toward the end of the 2007 racing season, it seems a good time to look at a handful of jockeys and trainers who may become important figures in 2008.

In prior years, similar previews pointed out budding young riding stars Rafael Bejarano, Julien Leparoux, Michael Baze, Joe Talamo, and Eddie Castro among others who were just beginning to make serious impact. Likewise, trainers Tom Amoss, Tim Ritchey, Bruce Levine. Michael Trombetta, Kirk Ziadie, and Jayne Vaders were profiled as they began to reach important levels of success on their home circuits or on the national stage.

This year, young jockeys Joel Rosario and Alonso Quinonez in Southern California, Jose Martinez Campos in Northern California, Jose Lezcano in New Jersey, Elvis Trujillo and Jermaine Bridgmohan in Florida, plus Alan Garcia in New York have shown considerable promise. Yet very few "new " trainers came along in 2007 to suggest they will join the ranks of more established winning horsemen in 2008.

The exceptions were Jorge Periban and Peter Miller in Southern California, David Jacobson in New York, and perhaps the most important "new" trainer to burst on the scene in many seasons, Larry Jones.

Jones hardly is a newcomer, yet he made an indelible impression in 2007 with his handling of the top 3-year-old Hard Spun and the 2-year-old filly Proud Spell, a graded stakes winner. The way Jones developed and managed those two important horses in his own style while dealing with many public critics clearly demonstrated that he will be an important force for years to come.

Few trainers have shown such insight with a horse as versatile and talented as Hard Spun, who was a major factor in all three Triple Crown races as well as winner of the seven-furlong King's Bishop before he completed an ambitious season with a respectable second-place finish in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. Meanwhile, there was nothing wrong with Jones's juvenile filly Proud Spell and her three sprint wins before she finished second in the BC Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

Miller, operating on a somewhat lower profile, also developed a good 2-year-old filly - Set Play - winner of the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante during Miller's breakout meet this past summer. Miller won 10 races at Del Mar and was one of the few Southern California trainers who effectively anticipated the need for stamina more than sheer speed while preparing for Del Mar's tricky Polytrack surface.

Miller continued that good showing to win 6 races from 27 attempts at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet and has been recycling his stock for the 2007-2008 Santa Anita meet. Strong with layoff types and with main-track routers, Miller deserves a careful look with his horses stretching out in distance.

Periban, virtually unknown, began to make a strong impression late in the season, winning 8 races in only 23 attempts at the Oak Tree meet, including several at longshot prices to push his average winning mutual above $15.

While Periban has very low winning percentages in most categories, he is a bona-fide sprint specialist with nearly 20 percent sprint winners throughout his career. As stated, his payoffs can be well above average. At Hollywood, after a slow opening week, Periban won three sprints on Nov. 16, Nov. 17, and Nov. 18 with more surely to come.

Jacobson, son of the late Buddy Jacobson, a former national training leader who was convicted of murder in the 1970s, deserves considerable credit for making his father's profession his own - on his own terms. Showing a relatively balanced approach with few clear-cut patterns, the young Jacobson improved his performance gradually through the year to be the current meet leader at Aqueduct.

Of the emerging jockeys, I liked what I saw from those profiled below:

* Joel Rosario, 22 and a full journeyman jockey since mid-2006, tied for eighth at Oak Tree with 12 wins from 115 mounts. At Hollywood, he has two wins and a few longshot second-place finishers to continue his trend of outperforming his odds quite often. This is a prime reason why I believe Roasrio will raise his win percentage with better class mounts.

* Alonso Quinonez, 24 and set to lose his apprentice allowance on Nov. 27, tied for eighth at Del Mar with 17 victories, finished 15th in the standings at Oak Tree, and is off to a great start at Hollywood with 6 wins from 35 mounts through Nov. 17. Quinonez is a hustling rider who has a good finishing touch and only needs to maintain his confidence to ride effectively after his apprenticeship.

* Jose Lezcano, 22, is more accomplished than most for his age, having been a winning jockey on the New Jersey circuit for three years. This past summer he showed that he can be just as effective riding good horses for top trainers in New York. The trend is sure to continue with more high-profile opportunities during the next 12 months.

* Jermaine Bridgmohan, 19 and younger brother of Shaun Bridgmohan, set the Calder meet record with 110 wins during the 2006-2007 meet while an apprentice. As a new journeyman, Bridgmohan finished fourth at the recent Meadowlands meet, where he won 20 percent of his starts.

* Elvis Trujillo, 25, has not been an apprentice since 2001, but this past year he was seen giving excellent performances aboard major stakes winners for nationally prominent trainers in New York, New Jersey, and Kentucky.

This is a sure sign that Trujillo will be an important rider to consider whenever he shows up on a high-profile horse in a stakes away from Florida. At present he is the second leading rider at Calder with the highest win percentage on the grounds.

* Jose Martinez Campos, 20 and still an apprentice rider, is virtually unknown outside Northern California. But Campos rode well in 2007 against against the world's winningest jockey, Russell Baze, as if he will be even more formidable in 2008. Watching Campos ride will confirm that. Quicker than most to spot a tight opening, Campos is a strong finisher who does not overuse the whip.

* Alan Garcia is a special case. He already seems to be among the top two dozen jockeys in America in very few years of competition. This year, Garcia rode Lahudood to victory in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont and the $2 million BC Filly and Mare turf at Monmouth. He rode Shakis to a Grade 2 win in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga; Dance Away Capote to a Grade 3 score in the Noble Damsel; Makderah to win the Grade 2 New York BC Handicap; and Flashy Bull to win the Grade 3 William D. Schaefer Handicap on the Preakness undercard. Most of those victories were for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who similarly sponsored Fernando Jara to major successes aboard 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor. While Jara lost his confidence and slipped out of the limelight in 2007, Garcia seems more polished.

Another jockey who deserves some mention for 2008 is a former jockey to watch from 2003 who fell on hard times: Tyler Baze.

While Baze struggled with off-the-track issues in 2005 and 2006, he has rebounded beautifully since the mid-point of the 2007 Del Mar meet and is back on course for a nationally prominent career. Indeed, Baze won the meet title at Oak Tree and currently is battling Garrett Gomez for the Hollywood Park meet title.

The Southern California jockey colony - weakened badly in recent years by the retirement of Hall of Fame jockeys Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye and Gary Stevens - is going to be much stronger in 2008. Baze's recovery of his form and the return of talented Patrick Valenzuela will be big plusses provided both stay healthy. The development of young Joe Talamo and the additions of Midwestern-based Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux are also going to make the Southern California jockey colony infinitely more competitive.