01/11/2010 12:00AM

Karlsson looking for wins, warmth

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - While the bulk of the folks in the Tampa area were scrambling to find a warm spot this past week as temperatures reached into the 30s, jockey Inez Karlsson was able to put the historic cold snap into perspective.

"I told my boyfriend I had a great plan for the winter, to ride at Tampa and be able to lay out by the pool or play tennis during my off time," the Swedish native chuckled. "Obviously, there hasn't been a lot of time around the pool lately, but when you compare this weather to that in Chicago it doesn't seem all that bad."

Karlsson is well aware of the vagaries of Chicago weather as she spent the better part of the past two seasons in the Windy City.

A runner-up for the 2008 Eclipse Award for apprentice jockeys with 161 wins, Karlsson proved she was no flash in the pan, winning 150 races and finishing fourth in the standings at Arlington last year. With no Thoroughbred racing in Chicago this January and February, the 26-year-old decided to head south for the winter.

"I had given some thought to Gulfstream, but I'm a realist," Karlsson said. "I knew it would be tough for me to get enough business there. When I found out several outfits from Chicago were shipping to Tampa this winter, I thought coming here would be a smart move."

Winner of seven races thus far at the meet, Karlsson rides with a polished professional style usually associated with riders of much more experience. She said she likes both the main track and turf surfaces at Tampa.

"I'm still learning how to ride the turf here, but it's a great course, and so is the main track," she said. "It's very forgiving for horses and safe. Now, if we could get a few more winners and some more pool time things would be just right."

Centeno returns from injury strong

Jockey Daniel Centeno was released from the intensive-care unit of Town and Country Hospital on Jan. 5 after being kicked in the chest by a horse in the paddock prior to the seventh race on Jan. 3.

Most people figured he would take a few days off before returning to action.

Wrong.

Centeno accepted mounts on the Jan. 6 program and wasted little time letting folks know he was good to go by winning four races on the card. The three-time leading rider knocked out four other wins during the rest of the week, including a victory in the Pelican Stakes on Saturday. He has 23 wins for a one-race lead over Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the battle for leading rider. Luis Gonzalez is third with 17 wins.

* Schoolyard Dreams, who trainer Derek Ryan feels has the potential to race in this year's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, made his 3-year-old debut in a mile and 40-yard optional claming tilt Saturday and came away with a 1 3/4-length win. Schoolyard Dreams is being considered for the Grade 3, $225,000 Sam Davis Stakes on Feb. 13.

* Apprentice Kristina McManigell won for the first time Thursday when she guided Real Stormy ($32.60) to victory in the second race. McManigell is graduate of Chris McCarron's North American Racing Academy.