11/18/2008 1:00AM

Homeister comes home for her 2,000th


MIAMI - With 1,997 victories on her resume, jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. is just three wins shy of a career milestone. And what better place to get memorable number 2,000 than at her old stomping grounds, Calder Race Course?

Homeister, who was practically born and raised at Calder, won the majority of her races at her home course before looking for new worlds to conquer a couple of years ago. She won the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice while riding here in 1992.

The daughter of trainer Rosemary Homeister Sr., she split her time this season between Tampa Bay Downs and Delaware Park before returning to south Florida earlier this week.

"I'm really excited about the prospect of riding my 2,000th winner," said Homeister, who trails only Julie Krone (3,704) and Patti Cooksey (2,137) on the list of all-time leading female riders. "And it would be great to do it at Calder because this is really my home track. Everybody here has been like family to me. And it would really be special if win number 2,000 could come for my mom."

Homeister is named on five horses on Saturday's card, including Make Me Zach in the Radar Love Stakes and Red Mercury, for her mother, in the finale.

"I've had a great year thus far," said Homeister, 36, who has ridden 142 winners in 2008. "I did really well at Tampa and can't wait to get back there again this winter. I just love that place. And the summer was good, too. I won 73 races at Delaware and another 20 out of town, including stakes at Kentucky Downs, Philadelphia Park, and Penn National. I also got to ride for some great trainers like Graham Motion and Jonathan Sheppard while up north."

Homeister said she plans to remain at Calder for several weeks before heading back to Tampa when the north Florida oval reopens early next month.

"I'm just so happy to be riding again," said Homeister, who retired briefly to pursue a real estate career several years ago. "I really have a passion to ride."

Wolfson, Clement connect with first-timers

Trainers Marty Wolfson and Christophe Clement each sent out well-bred debut winners over the turf on Sunday.

Wolfson, who continues to churn out winners at an unbelievable rate, saddled Winning Doe to capture her debut by a nose in Sunday's third race. Clement sent out Entice to an impressive last-to-first 2 3/4-length victory an hour later in the afternoon's fifth event. Winning Doe is by Running Stag and a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Revved Up and Miesque's Approval.

Wolfson captured a pair of races on Sunday's card to pull himself into a dead heat with Eddie Plesa Jr. at the top of the trainer standings with eight wins apiece. Wolfson has registered his eight victories from just 17 starters.

Path opens for Cruz to move to top

The prospect of Manoel Cruz successfully defending his Tropical at Calder riding title looked bleak when Paco Lopez opened a big lead in the standings after the opening three weeks of the meet. But with the recent announcement by track management that Lopez cannot ride here during the remainder of the meet, Cruz suddenly becomes the heavy favorite to win a second straight Tropical title.

Cruz still trailed Lopez by a 27-19 count at the conclusion of Sunday's racing, but at the rate he has been going figures to pass his idle rival within the next week. Perhaps Cruz's biggest challenge for the 2008-09 Tropical crown is Elvis Trujillo, who recently returned from an injury and already has posted 10 victories this meet, including three on Saturday.

Radar Love hopefuls tune up

Monday's work tab was packed with horses prepping for Saturday's $50,000 Radar Love Stakes. The group included the Wolfson pair of Golden Spikes (four furlongs in 47.80 seconds) and Ikigai (four furlongs in 50.20), Paradise Dancer (four furlongs in 47), and Storm in May (five furlongs in 1:02.60 from the gate).

Storm in May, second in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby as a prelude to his appearance in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, is winless in three starts this season.

The talented field for the 6 1/2-furlong Radar Love also includes Grade 3 winner Hey Byrn and Machismo.

Hernandez will miss two months with injury

Jockey Constantino Hernandez sustained a broken right clavicle when he was unseated after his mount, Red Hot Candy, stumbled leaving the starting gate at the beginning of Saturday's ninth race.

Hernandez, who was sidelined by a broken right arm at the end of the Gulfstream meet, said he expects to be out for at least the next two months.

Hernandez, 51, suffered near-fatal injuries in a frightening spill over the local turf course in 1986 but made a miraculous comeback to the saddle here nearly 20 years later in August 2007.