01/23/2004 12:00AM

Fragoso hot in winter


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jockey Pablo Fragoso maintains the same even-keel temperament regarding his chances of winning an Eclipse Award as he does sitting on a 1,100-pound Thoroughbred.

"If we win, we win," said Fragoso, who is represented by agent Mike Kelly. "If not, we keep going."

Fragoso, 21, kept his recent hot streak going on Friday, winning four consecutive races on Aqueduct's nine-race card. His four victories on one card were a career best, and he is now beginning to open up a sizeable lead in the jockey standings here

Fragoso, who is 20 for 90 since New Year's Day, has an inner-track-leading 33 victories, seven more than journeymen Mike Luzzi and Richard Migliore. Fragoso is attempting to become just the seventh apprentice jockey to win a riding title at a New York Racing Association track in the last 25 years.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to that," Fragoso said when asked about a riding title. "I know it's very important just to win. I just try to work hard every day and try to do my best every day."

Fragoso was deemed one of the three best apprentice riders of 2003. He is up for the Eclipse Award against Eddie Castro and Ryan Fogelsonger, last year's winner. Castro, who rode more winners and earned almost as much money as Fragoso, is the favorite to win when the awards are announced Monday night during a reception in south Florida.

Fragoso, who will attend the ceremony, won 103 races from 909 mounts in 2003, and those mounts earned $3,987,229 in purses to lead all apprentice riders. While Castro was dominating the Calder meet, Fragoso was competing against some of the best riders in the world on the NYRA circuit. Apprentice riders are hard-pressed to win two races during Saratoga, Fragoso won seven.

"I'm very happy to have been given the opportunity to start here and ride in New York with the best riders in the world," Fragoso said. "This is the best school."

And Fragoso has learned his lessons well. In addition to recording several multiple-win days lately, Fragoso also won his first stakes, guiding Austin's Mom to victory in last weekend's Grade 3 Affectionately Handicap. Fragoso is sitting on another live stakes mount Sunday when he rides Island Sand in the $75,000 Busanda for 3-year-old fillies.

Fragoso did not grow up around horses in his native Mexico. He came to the United States in 1997 and lived with his older brother, Arturo, who worked for trainer Richard Schosberg. Fragoso worked for trainers Kiaran McLaughlin, Todd Pletcher, and Mark Hennig, for whom he galloped many stakes-winning horses.

Fragoso began riding last Jan. 18 and went 0 for 26 before winning his first race on March 21 aboard Private Retreat. Within two weeks, he had five winners, officially kicking off his apprenticeship.

Kelly, who has been Fragoso's agent since he started, loves Fragoso's attitude and said he has seen marked improvement in his riding.

"He's gotten a lot stronger with his left hand," said Kelly, a former trainer. "A lot of horses will run away from the left hand, and a lot of horses will lug in and they'll need help from the left hand. Overall, in general, he's become a better rider."

Fragoso will maintain his weight allowance until early April. At that time, Jerry Bailey, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez will be returning from south Florida, and choice mounts won't be as easy to come by.

"I want to try be here in New York and work real hard and see how my business is going. It's going to slow down, I know, because I've seen it happen to other apprentice jockeys."

Queen's Triomphe to get a break

Queen's Triomphe, who finished fifth in the Affectionately Handicap, has been sent to New Episode Training Center in Ocala, Fla., for a freshening. Trainer Tom Bush said the mare most likely would not be seen again until late spring.

Before the Affectionately, Queen's Triomphe won the Montauk Handicap in November and finished second in the Ladies Handicap in December. Bush said he was disappointed with the ride Jose Espinoza gave Queen's Triomphe.

"She was too much a part of the pace the other day," Bush said. "It was not anything I had in mind. Going a mile and a sixteenth she's supposed to be off the pace.''

Dutrow plots course with fillies

While Tony Dutrow will run Island Sand in Sunday's Busanda Stakes, he laid out his plans for the two other fillies he nominated to the race. Dutrow said Among My Souvenirs, who is 2 for 2, including a victory in the Marshua Stakes at Laurel, will be pointed to the Dearly Precious here on Feb. 14. Meanwhile, Royal Magician, who finished sixth in the Open Mind Stakes here, is getting a break until the opening of Aqueduct's outer track.

"Souvenirs is promising, and we're going to give her the opportunity to see how good she is," Dutrow said. "I feel she'll be a factor in the Dearly Precious. I was disappointed with Royal Magician's last race and I don't have any excuse."

Dutrow could have another contender for the Dearly Precious in She's a Rebel Too, who won an entry-level allowance race on Friday by a neck. Her final time of 1:12.01 was .90 seconds faster than Bohemian Lady won the other division.

* Ten-pound apprentice rider Erilouis Vaz will begin serving a 10-day suspension Monday for what the stewards called "gross careless riding" in Thursday's first race. Vaz was aboard Last Goodbye, and in the backstretch he let that horse come over on Emerald Green, forcing jockey Victor Carrero to check sharply. Vaz recorded his first career victory last Monday.