08/23/2007 12:00AM

Jockey McCauley, 50, plans comeback


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Looking as fit and trim as he did during his heyday, jockey Herb McCauley was on the backstretch at Saratoga on Thursday morning announcing that he was ready to launch an improbable comeback to the saddle.

"Herb McCauley, a piece of racing history," trainer Angel Penna Jr. said upon noticing the veteran jockey.

"I'm looking to make some more," McCauley said.

Away from the races for nine years after severely breaking his leg in a spill at Monmouth Park, McCauley, who turned 50 in May, said he hopes to begin riding again in less than two weeks. He would like to ride on the New York-New Jersey circuit.

McCauley has been getting on horses for a couple of weeks for trainer Alan Goldberg at Colts Neck Farm in central New Jersey, about 10 minutes from Monmouth Park. McCauley was scheduled to breeze some horses for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens here on Friday morning.

"I'm giving myself a second chance," said McCauley, who won 3,049 races from 1975 through 1998. "I've been riding since I was 3 years old. The happiest I've ever been was on the back of a horse. I'm sound enough where I can do it."

"I tell you what, he's pretty fit," Goldberg said. "He's got himself in pretty good shape; his weight is good. He seems like he's got a lot of desire to come back."

McCauley broke his leg so severely in 1998 that he said it took 3 1/2 years for him to be able to walk again. He said he began thinking about a comeback in March. He hooked up with a physical therapist and a nutritionist and has gotten his weight down to 114 1/2 pounds from 138 in February.

"I just turned 50, but I've got a 25-year-old body," McCauley said. "I'm in the best shape I've ever been in."

McCauley said that not only is he physically ready for a comeback, he is mentally ready, too.

"I couldn't have done this a couple of years ago - I didn't have that no-fear attitude," McCauley said. "Your body and your mind tell you when you can do something. There was no way I was going to ride without that no-fear attitude."

McCauley was the leading apprentice rider at Keystone Park in 1975 and Monmouth Park in 1976. He won three riding titles at the Meadowlands in the early 1980s, including in 1985, when he won 131 races. That year, he ranked third in the nation in wins with 316.

McCauley moved his tack to New York in 1987 and enjoyed his best year in 1992, when he was the second -leading rider in stakes won with 25, four behind Mike Smith. That year, he won the $1 million Travers and Jim Dandy aboard the New York-bred Thunder Rumble.