07/07/2004 11:00PM

Jellison the new leading lady


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - With the top three all-time female riders either retired or currently inactive, Jill Jellison is now the leading active female jockey in terms of wins. She had a big comeback this week and won two races Monday following three months on the sidelines with a broken collarbone.

The top three female riders by wins are Julie Krone (3,704 wins), who on Wednesday said it was unlikely that she would ride again; Patti Cooksey, who retired June 24 with 2,137 wins; and Vicky Baze (1,769), who rode in eight races at Emerald Downs in May - her first mounts since July 2001 - but has not ridden since.

Jellison, 41, is 30 wins behind Baze with 1,739 wins and figures to pass her with a strong summer.

With 20 years of riding under her belt - almost all at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park - there was certainly something missing when Suffolk opened for the season in May and Jellison wasn't in the riding colony. She had been recovering from injuries sustained in a spill March 12, when a filly named Benny's Gem stumbled from the gate at Tampa Bay Downs and threw Jellison.

"It wasn't too bad. The filly just took a bad step," said Jellison in her typical understated way. "It looked worse than it was, although I was out cold with a concussion. You don't want to be doing that too many times."

Jellison has been fortunate enough to avoid many serious injuries, which is part of the reason she's won so many races. Before this year's injury, Jellison's longest stint on the sidelines was six months, in the mid-1980's, when she dislocated a shoulder.

Jellison was the leading apprentice at Finger Lakes in 1982 before coming to New England to work for trainer Bobby Raymond, who remains her leading source of business at Suffolk.

"I don't know how many more of these I can come back from," said Jellison. "Every time you get an injury like this it gets harder to recover. People ask if I'm thinking about retiring, but it's tough. I have fun riding and I missed it while I was coming back. I get bored without racing, and there's no feeling in the world like winning races and getting the money."

Before beginning her comeback, Jellison made sure she was 100 percent, both mentally and physically. Her experience and preparation showed Monday, her second day back, when Jellison won with both of her mounts.

"The second horse had dumped the rider and run back to the barn the last time he was entered," said Jellison. "My experience with young horses is that they get better. I knew he'd learn from that and that I didn't have too much to worry about."

Jellison was right, just as she has been many times here over the years.

Awards dinner tickets still available

Tickets are still available for Monday's New England Turf Writers' Awards Dinner at the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers.

The banquet will hand out the region's divisional awards for 2003, and Ellen O'Brien of the horse retirement group Canter will receive the Lou Smith Award for service to racing. The James B. Moseley New England Horse of the Year award will also be announced.

Tickets are $55 each and $550 for a table and are on sale through the Suffolk Downs publicity office.