07/05/2002 12:00AM

Heads and shoulders above rest


Given the depth of talent among the regular riders at Delaware Park this season, the race for leading jockey was expected to be extremely competitive.

Ramon Dominguez, however, has turned things into a rout.

Competing against such accomplished jockeys as Mike McCarthy, Jeremy Rose, Anthony Black, and Eddie Martin, the 25-year-old Dominguez is head and shoulders above the rest of the jockey colony.

Heading into Saturday's program, Dominguez has 82 winners, 30 more than runner-up Rose, last year's leading rider at the meet and the Eclipse Award apprentice. Dominguez's mounts have amassed $2,448,189 in purses earned, $911,550 more than second-place McCarthy, who has long dominated that category at Delaware.

Dominguez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, who rode more often in Maryland than at Delaware last year, admits he never expected to be so dominant when he made this track his main base in late April.

"Coming in, I was not going to be disappointed if I was not at the top of the standings," Dominguez said. "Jeremy Rose went to Maryland last winter and he picked up some very good clients. Plus, I knew he had an advantage because he was leading rider here last year.

"I knew my business would be strong as well. But I definitely didn't think I was going to be doing this well, this early."

At this pace, Dominguez is a threat to break McCarthy's track records of 218 wins at a meet and $4.84 million in purses. He has already won eight stakes and should have several quality mounts for the Delaware Handicap Festival of Racing on July 20-21.

Dominguez will likely ride Your Out in the Delaware Handicap, Alternate in the Delaware Oaks, and Equality in the Kent Breeders' Cup. Last year, Dominguez won three of the six major stakes run as part of the festival weekend.

Next for Running Tide

Unbeaten 3-year-old Running Tide, winner of the Legal Light and Grade 3 Leonard Richards stakes at Delaware, is likely to make her next start in next Saturday's West Long Branch Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park, a Grade 3 race at 1 1/16 miles.

Trainer Rodney Jenkings said he also nominated Running Tide to the $250,000 Carry Back, a six-furlong race that is part of next weekend's Summit of Speed at Calder, but is leaning towards the Long Branch.