04/19/2003 12:00AM

Injury bug hits local jockey colony


OLDSMAR, Fla. - In the past week several jockeys have been injured and a few more have left, or are planning to leave, to ride at other tracks.

Joe Judice, who came into Saturday's program with a one-race lead over Jesus Castanon at the top of the rider standings, has had some swelling in his hand after one of his mounts attempted to vault the temporary inner rail on the turf course and unseated him last week. He took off on Tuesday, but was back in action Saturday.

Pedro Rodriguez also went down when his mount stumbled during a turf route recently. He took some time off but he, too, rode Saturday.

Russell Woolsey, who was in the midst of his best meeting ever, suffered a broken collarbone when his mount broke down and fell in the final race on April 14. He will be sidelined for the rest of the meeting.

Castanon will be splitting his time between Tampa Bay Downs and Calder for the remainder of the meet, as he plans on riding in south Florida this summer, according to agent Don Hill.

"Jesus would love to win the riding title," he said. "It's a rider's dream to be leading rider where they ride regularly. But he has decided to ride full time at Calder this summer and we're going to have to be down there to get a foundation for the upcoming meeting."

Juan Umana and Federico Mata are both finished riding at this meet. Umana last rode here Tuesday and is heading to Delaware Park. Mata accepted his last mount here Saturday and will next ride at Great Lakes Downs.

Caple still seeking big horse

Trainer Gary Caple was watching a feature on the upcoming Kentucky Derby the other day, and as he watched some of the trainers of the leading contenders being interviewed he looked for all the world like a kid standing outside a candy store.

"That's what we all dream for, the chance to get just one really good horse," he said. "That one good horse can change everything. I've been around trainers who were working hard and still just getting along, then all of a sudden they find that one good one and the next thing you know they're on TV all the time and they become household names in racing. I guess that's what keeps us getting up every morning."

While Caple hasn't been lucky enough to find a big horse, he has been quietly compiling a good record with modest stock this meeting. Through April 15, Caple had sent out 15 winners from 97 runners at the meeting. Many of Caple's clients are from the Miami area, and he runs horses here for several trainers who send him stock that don't fit well at Gulfstream. Caple's average winning mutuel payoff is a healthy $9.08 - which means he's not ramming favorites down anyone's throat - and his runners are in the money at better than a 40 percent clip.

"Some of the horses are from my year-round clients and others are just here for this meeting," he said. "The money's getting better here every year so it works out well. Now if we could just get our hands on a really good one."