06/16/2003 11:00PM

Guce's versatility a plus


STOCKTON, Calif. - Jockey Ramon Guce is making his debut on the fair circuit, but he's anything but a rookie.

The 34-year-old rider was the 1999 jockey of the year in his native Philippine Islands and has twice been the leading Thoroughbred rider at Los Alamitos since arriving in the United States in 2000.

"My godfather invited me to ride here," he said of his move to this country.

"In the Philippines, we have a family of jockeys. My father and two brothers are jockeys. I have four or five uncles who ride. I grew up with a barn filled with horses."

Guce says his biggest adjustment to riding in the U.S. has been the "need to be quicker from the gate. In my country, you sit back."

He considers himself a versatile rider. "I try to ride horses the way they need to be ridden," he said.

Although he prefers Thoroughbreds, Guce said he is riding "everything but mules" on the fairs. He hopes to attract enough attention that he can join the northern California jockey colony.

In his first week at the San Joaquin County Fair, Guce has two wins, two seconds, and two thirds from 11 mounts with emerging breeds - Arabians, Appaloosas, and Quarter Horses - and one win and two thirds from 11 Thoroughbred mounts.

Guce won with his first mount in the U.S. aboard Clocker's Corner at Los Alamitos. He has picked up an occasional ride at Hollywood Park, where his fondest memory is beating Laffit Pincay Jr., who was riding an odds-on choice, with Johnny Be Good at 17-1.

"I'm very proud of that," he said. "Laffit congratulated me after the race."

Filling races not a problem

Regarding the first seven days of racing at the San Joaquin County Fair, racing secretary Bob Moreno said: "Entries have been decent. We've run into a little midweek lull, but things will pick up the final weekend."

With no Thoroughbred stakes races, the fair has boosted bottom-level purses and has been running large fields that generate betting interest. Stockton, which traditionally has run three emerging-breed races and seven Thoroughbred races a day, has been running more Thoroughbred races this year in part because the Thoroughbred races have filled so well.

Black Ruby gets new rider

Black Ruby, the world champion mule and possibly the biggest draw on the fair circuit, returns to action Sunday at Stockton, minus regular jockey Jim Burns.

Misfortune couldn't have struck Burns, who thrives on the fair circuit, at a worse time.

He broke five ribs - two of them shattered - and suffered a collapsed lung June 8, three days before the start of the fair season. The injuries occurred as he was preparing to work a horse.

"He was going between the shed rows," Burns said. "I was just getting the reins when he spooked and went to bucking. I got thrown and landed with my elbow against my ribs. I think the horse stepped on me, too."

Burns hopes to be ready to ride when the fair circuit goes to Santa Rosa July 23.

Ryan Morris will pickup the mount on Black Ruby.

Seabiscuit bobblehead giveaway

The first Seabiscuit bobblehead giveaway on the fair circuit will be held Friday. The first 2,000 fans at Stockton will receive the bobblehead, which proved to be one of the most popular giveaways in the history of Bay Meadows last fall.

Molinaro sizzled at Bay Meadows

Trainer Kent Molinaro and apprentice jockey John Rochabrun wound up the Bay Meadows meet with a bang Sunday.

The Molinaro-trained Royal Emerald won the first race, giving Molinaro eight victories from his 10 starters at the meet.

Rochabrun doubled his season's victory total with the first riding triple of his career as he guided Brite Bounty ($18.40) to victory in the seventh race and won the late double with Vicester ($10.80) in the ninth and Satin Dolly ($21.80) in the 10th.