08/31/2005 12:00AM

Jockey, age 70, seeks win


The Three County Fair at Northampton, Mass., opens Friday for a seven-day run with an emphasis on the quaint traditions of the 188-year-old fixture.

Northampton is the only remaining fair on a once vibrant circuit of New England bullrings, but it has survived in recent years thanks to simulcasting and a few featured racing attractions, such as Zippy Chippy's futile attempts to end his record-setting losing streak. With Zippy Chippy now retired, this year's hook will be the quest by jockey Frank Amonte to win a race with his 70th birthday coming Monday. He has three mounts on Friday.

Amonte became what is believed the be the oldest rider to win aboard a Thoroughbred when he and a horse he trained, Evas Boy, scored at Suffolk Downs Aug. 10. In order to keep his trainer's license, Amonte is limited to riding only the horses he conditions at Suffolk Downs. But at the fair, where he won on his 68th birthday in 2003, he can ride for other trainers.

Joining Amonte in the jockey colony will be perennial leaders Howard Lanci and Vernon Bush. Edgar Paucar, who emerged as solid journeyman in New England after debuting at the fair in 2003, is back after finishing near the top of the standings in both his stints at Northampton. Keturah Obed and Helen Vanek also are here.

With only seven live racing days at the meet - Friday through Monday and then the following Friday through Sunday - racing secretary Sam Siciliano doesn't expect problems filling races as has often happened in the past when the fair ran head to head with Suffolk or Rockingham Park.

"We've got about 170 horses back there now," said Siciliano. "Plus I've got some horses coming in each day. This place has a lot of tradition. Many of the people who race here have been coming for 30 years."

The fair, the longest running continuing agricultural gathering in the country, opens Thursday. The racing highlight is the $15,000 Northampton Stakes for statebreds on Sunday.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 7 days; Weekends Sept. 2-5, Sept 9-11.

POST TIME: 1:30 p.m.

HIGHLIGHT: $15,000 Northampton Handicap Sept. 5.

ADMISSIONS: Free to racetrack - Fair admission $7 adult - $4 Children ages 4-12

LOCATION: Exit 4 off I-91

SIMULCASTING: Available on live racing days

PHONE: (413) 584-2237

INTERNET: www.threecountyfair.com