08/25/2005 11:00PM

Kobiskie proving himself a rider to look up to


Tall people can be successful jockeys, too. Mike McCarthy and Mark Johnston, both of whom are 5 feet 9 inches tall, were standouts for many years on the East Coast, and now an apprentice with a very similar build is making his mark on the Kentucky circuit.

Dane Kobiskie, a 26-year-old former Marine, has won 30 races at the Ellis Park meet in Henderson, Ky., placing him second behind Jesus Castanon in the jockey standings. Kobiskie, who is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 109 pounds, said he is "ecstatic" with how he has progressed this summer.

"Hardly anybody knew who I was coming into the meet, but I felt pretty strong that we could be in the top three," said Kobiskie, a native of Kansas who served a 1 1/2-year stint as an active Marine and also several years as a Reserve. "I couldn't be happier with how things have gone this summer."

Kobiskie had a brief start (0 for 14) to his riding career at Remington Park in 2002 while still in the Reserves, then took time to regroup before re-emerging this spring at Churchill Downs. He rode two winners there, and with many of the circuit's top jockeys choosing to ride at Saratoga or Arlington for the balance of the summer, Kobiskie and his agent, Steve Elzey, have capitalized on their opportunities at Ellis.

Remarkably, Kobiskie said making weight is of little trouble despite his physical challenges.

"I've always been pretty light," he said. "I've never had an ounce of fat on me. The heaviest I've ever been was about 125, and I'm not having a hard time keeping my weight where it is. I don't flip or take Lasix or hit the hotbox. I feel strong, I feel good, and I rode all nine races Wednesday."

Elzey said one of the best traits Kobiskie brings is his demeanor with horsemen. Clearly, his training as a Marine has served him well.

"The thing about him is, he's not a kid," said Elzey. "He handles himself extremely well."

Troilo to return toward end of meet

Veteran jockey Bill Troilo is scheduled to return to action during the final few days of the Ellis meet. Troilo suffered a separated left shoulder and a lacerated left elbow in a spill in the seventh race Aug. 10.

Troilo, 44, enjoyed a productive spring meet at Churchill and perennially ranks among the top 10 jockeys at Turfway Park, which starts its fall meet Sept. 7. He has ridden nearly 1,700 winners in a riding career that began in 1981.

During his recuperation period, Troilo returned to his native Philadelphia to visit family members.

Set to Sparkle noses another

The win streak Set to Sparkle extended by capturing the fourth race Thursday at Ellis is no record, but the way she has been keeping the streak intact may be worthy of something more than an honorable mention if she does it another time or two.

Set to Sparkle held on to win by a nose, marking the second straight race she had prevailed by that margin. Overall, it was her sixth straight victory, all for owners Ronald Grout and Nelson Rennekamp, trainer Maria Pinzon, and jockey Fabio Arguello Jr.

Set to Sparkle, claimed for $15,000 in April at Keeneland, finished seventh and last in her first start for her current connections at Churchill. Since then, she has gone unbeaten, competing exclusively in sprints for claiming prices ranging from $12,500 to $27,500. The Thursday win came for a $20,000 price.

* After the Sunday card, Ellis goes dark for two days before the final six-day stretch of the 41-day meet ensues. Closing day is Labor Day, Sept. 5, when the $50,000 Tri-State Handicap will be featured.