03/05/2005 1:00AM

Jellison third on women riders' list


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Jill Jellison rode into racing history on Friday, when she booted home her 1,770th career winner to become the third all-time leading female rider. Jellison now ranks behind only Julie Krone (3,704 wins) and Patti Cooksey (2,137).

It was a vintage Jellison ride - quiet, efficient, no bells or whistles, just get the job done. Aboard Halo Skywalker for trainer and longtime partner Robert Raymond, Jellison stalked the early leader and moved to the front into the turn of the 1 1/16-mile maiden claiming route. When leading rider T.D. Houghton ranged up on the outside aboard Mysteriousness, Jellison, ever cool, tapped her mount a few times, shook off the challenge, and drew away.

Since her time as leading apprentice at Finger Lakes in 1982, Jellison has forged quite a career, in 1993 becoming only the fifth female jockey in Thoroughbred history to win 1,000 races and in 1990 journeying to Japan as part of an all-star female riding group.

Along the way, there came the inevitable injuries and rehabilitation periods, and Jellison admitted Saturday that those down times were the toughest.

"Being away from the game, not being able to compete, those were the worst things to deal with after an injury," she said. "The injuries themselves were bad, but not being able to do anything, that was really tough."

And highlights along the way?

"There's no question the Japan tour was a high point," Jellison said. "Going to another part of the world and seeing that not everybody lives like we do, seeing the different cultures, it was a great experience."

Jellison said that winning means more than any milestone.

"I just wanted to win races, and we weren't doing that," she said. "That bothered me more than getting the 1,770th win. I just wanted my horses do run better for my trainers and owners and wasn't worried about the record."

As for the future, however, "second place isn't that far away," she said. "Maybe that's still within my reach."

Scace tops trainer standings again

Few tracks in the country have as many successful female trainers at one meeting as Tampa Bay Downs.

Lynn Scace, last year's leading trainer here, has moved to the front in the standings again with 15 victories. In addition, four other women - Joan Scott (12 wins), Lori Smock (11), Deborrah Artz (8), and Barbara McBride (7) - are among the top 20 trainers here this season.

Bennett keeps options open for Lite Brigade

Trainer Gerald Bennett is considering his options for Lite Brigade in the wake of his second straight local victory. Lite Brigade finished second in his debut to the Kirk Ziadie-trained Firebrook, whose connections were impressed enough to take him to Gulfstream, where he was slated to race in an allowance Saturday.

Lite Brigade came back to win his next, then on Thursday posted a most impressive allowance win, drawing off late to be more than five lengths clear under Terry Houghton.

"He's eligible for the Tampa Bay Derby as well as the $75,000 3-year-old race on Florida Cup Day [the Florida Cup Sophomore], or I may run him in a two-other-than or nonwinners-of-three allowance race," Bennett said. "I want to see how he progresses from his last before I make any decisions."