11/12/2004 12:00AM

Homeister, 32, retires from riding

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Jean Raftery/Turfotos
Rosemary Homeister Jr. was a perennial top 10 rider at Calder, where she won the La Prevoyante in 2002.

MIAMI - Rosemary Homeister Jr., one of the winningest female jockeys in the country for the past decade, has decided to hang up her tack.

Homeister, 32, has not ridden for a month. She made her retirement official on Friday, although said she has been contemplating the decision for nearly two years. Homeister ends her career with 1,726 victories.

"I first began thinking about retiring during the Gulfstream meet in 2003 after taking several bad spills within a week's span," said Homeister, whose husband, Jose Ferrer, is currently riding at Calder. "I had some time off and started to think about life, my future, and the fact I'd like to start a family someday. I wanted to be able to walk away safe and do it on my own terms when the time came."

Homeister returned to the saddle during the latter stages of the 2003 Gulfstream meet, and several months later realized her lifelong dream when she rode Supah Blitz in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Manny Tortora. Supah Blitz finished 13th.

"Riding in the Kentucky Derby was the highlight of my career, along with winning the Eclipse Award as top apprentice rider in the country in 1992," said Homeister. "When you get to the Derby, you've made it to the very top in this business. I still can't believe it. Being at the Derby that whole week and then riding in the race was an unbelievable experience. After being there, nothing else really can compare to it."

Homeister, with her bubbling personality, was also a darling of the fans and one of the most popular riders on the local circuit after she returned to her south Florida roots full time 10 years ago. She was a perennial top 10 rider at Calder throughout her career, and during the spring of 2001 became the only woman to win a Hialeah jockey title.

"I finally decided this summer that I would call it quits at the end of this year following the conclusion of the Tropical meeting here at Calder," said Homeister. "But then I took a couple of spills last month. The second time I landed right on my head and really put my neck and back out of line, and that's when I decided not to wait any longer. I got my real estate license in March and now I can have a real estate career full time, have more free time to spend with my family and just enjoy life."