12/12/2002 1:00AM

Hampshire and Hall: Together again


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Things are going so well for jockey Joe Hampshire that he can afford to fire his wife and agent, Kim, to let her stay home with their new baby, and re-hire agent Max Hall.

Hampshire, 39, has won at least once on 28 of the last 30 racing days he has ridden, and is on his way to a 300-win year and his sixth straight riding title. Hall, 55, has won more than 20 New England titles with his riders and is the agent who sent Norberto Arroyo on his way to success in New York.

Hall worked as Hampshire's agent from the mid-1990's until he left for New York with Arroyo in 1999. From then until now, Kim Hampshire handled her husband's book. But Kim recently had a baby and Hall decided to return to the Boston area.

"I'm very lucky and very happy to have Maxie back," said Hampshire. "If it wasn't for Max I wouldn't have had the success I've had."

Before Hampshire and Hall first teamed up in 1995, Hall was the man behind the success of Carl Gambardella, New England's dean of jockeys. He also handled the book of Stuart Elliot when he burst on the scene in the mid '80's and also has worked for Tammi Piermarini. When Arroyo arrived as an apprentice in 1999, he and Hall struck out to New York with dreams of riding in a Kentucky Derby or Breeders' Cup. Arroyo now has a foothold there, and Hall came to a crossroads.

"I missed my grandkids and my family," said Hall, who often commuted between his home near Boston and New York. "I had to make a decision between trying to live the dream in a Derby or seeing my grandkids grow up. Norberto is on his way, I think, but any grandparent will tell you it's worth it. I'm also thrilled to have the chance to work with Joe again at a time when Suffolk Downs is really coming around. I told everyone in New York, I'm not retiring, I'm going home."

With Hall hustling mounts for him, don't expect to see anyone's name but Hampshire's engraved on the jockeys' trophy here for the next few years.

Big Miss subject of dispute

Big Miss will be the favorite in Saturday's $35,000 Louise Kimball Distaff Championship against fellow Massachusetts-breds, but any money she wins will be frozen until an ownership dispute can be resolved in court.

Gal Sal Stable, the nom-de-course for Sally Venezia, is the listed owner for Big Miss. Her husband, Bob Venezia, has a $163,000 civil judgment against him, dating back to 1999, from a breeding dispute with Kimberly Hills of Ipswich, Mass. When Hills's lawyers discovered Venezia owned Big Miss earlier this month, they moved to freeze Gal Sal Stable's accounts and took out a restraining order keeping Big Miss from leaving Suffolk Downs.

Big Miss has won two of her last three, including the Eleanora Sears Stakes Nov. 2. Former regional champ Sunlit Ridge will be her biggest threat in the 1 1/16-mile Louise Kimball Distaff.

Stakes purses get boost

Suffolk finalized its winter stakes schedule and boosted minimum stakes purses from $30,000 to $35,000 in a move to keep the track's stakes listed as black-type in breeding catalogs.

There's also a new stakes, the $50,000 Ernie Lowe Stallion stakes for Mass.-breds, named in honor of the longtime New England trainer who died last summer. The highlight of the 2003 meeting, the Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap, will be run May 31.

* Suffolk will start a "Show Up on Saturdays" contest on Jan. 4, the first Saturday of the winter meet. Players must select one horse from the live Suffolk program every Saturday for 22 weeks with the one picking the most in-the-money finishers winning a cash prize. Fans must make their selections in person at the track. Contestants won't be eliminated for failing to make a pick.

* Rockingham Park will hold its fifth annual food drive next week with simulcast patrons invited to bring canned goods and non-perishable food items to the track for distribution to area food pantries.