07/03/2003 11:00PM

Jockey colony's English accent


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - England native Nicky Wright has been the leading apprentice around here for the past year and a half, and when she loses her bug on Aug. 8, she could be passing the baton to a fellow countrywoman, 18-year-old Emma Jane Abbott.

Their backgrounds are similar. Both worked in trainer Henry Candy's yard in Oxfordshire, England, before coming here, and Abbott, like Wright, went to horse racing school in that country. Wright went to the British Racing School, and Abbott is a graduate of the Northern Racing College.

"I took the jockeys' course there, which goes for 10 weeks," Abbott said. "It's a great school, and they guarantee anyone that takes a course there a job."

Jockey Mark Lawson, who also worked for Candy, was a fellow student. "I had already ridden horses before going there," Abbott said, "but some of the students, like Mark, had never sat on a horse before. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience."

While Wright is the connection that brought Abbott to Canada, they didn't know each other before last Christmas.

"She had left England before I started at Candy's yard," said Abbott. "But I had certainly heard of her success over here, and everyone said I looked just like her. I met her when she came back for a visit last Christmas. We went out to a pub and she showed me a lot of her pictures. She said, 'Why don't you come out?' and I said okay."

It's not surprising that Abbott, who likes to be called J.J, is off to such a quick start in her chosen career. She has wanted to be a jockey ever since she was a 10-year-old growing up in Darbyshire, England, and when she was 12, her father bought her an Arabian colt.

"I did everything with him," she said. "I broke him and I would pretend I was a jockey. I would ride him around before, sometimes during, and after school. I learned a lot about horses in general, and I think it's helped me along the way. I still have a lot to learn, and it's incredible how helpful everyone here seems to be. Nicky and all of the riders have been great to me, and even Brownie'' - former rider Jerry Brownell, now a clocker and valet - "has gone out of his way to give me advice."

Trainer Terry Jordan has named Abbott on Lost All Control in the ninth race Sunday, and a lot of it has to do with weight.

"She can tack a hundred pounds," said Jordan. "She still has a lot of learning to do, but at that light of a weight she really doesn't have to do a lot, especially if the horse can make the lead."

Weight isn't the only reason Jordan likes to use Abbott.

"She really knows horses," he said. "She can tell you if a horse is slightly off and, more importantly, she's able to tell you where. Not too many riders can do that. She's invaluable in the mornings."

Her winning ride Tuesday on Shoo Fly Willie showed that she's a lot more than just a light rider who can hang on while coasting on the lead. She sat very chilly behind a contested pace, and when a hole opened up on the rail, she didn't hesitate to go through.

"That was a pretty small opening she went through," said David Milburn, Shoo Fly Willie's trainer. "She showed a lot of patience, and I like the way she followed the instructions I gave her."

Of course, the big question on everyone's mind at Hastings is: Why J.J.?

"My dad used to call me Emma J.J., and when I was at riding school there were quite a few other Emmas, so they used to call me J.J. and I can't seem to get rid of it."

Grace for You back from minor injury

Grace for You, the 2002 Ballerina winner, worked a very good six furlongs in 1:13.40 seconds Friday morning. She galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.20 seconds, and her trainer, Terry Marshall, reports that she should make her first start of the year in the Senate Appointee Stakes July 20.

"That was a good move for her," Marshall said.

Grace For You was set back when she pulled a muscle this spring, but by all appearances, she's back on track now.