05/05/2009 11:00PM

Ladies take up third of jocks' room

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AUBURN, Wash. - Female jockeys are nothing new in the Pacific Northwest. Violet "Pinky" Smith broke into the old boys' club at Longacres in the early 1970's. Jane Driggers, Barbara Thompson, Vicky Aragon, and others followed in the ensuing years, winning races and even riding titles. But the group has rarely been deeper than the current one at Emerald Downs, where seven of the 21 licensed riders are women.

During last Sunday's 10-race card, for example, 21 of the 81 starters were ridden by women - 25.9 percent. Jennifer Whitaker (Wasserman) and Deborah Hoonan-Trujillo (Starbird Road) rode leading contenders in the Seattle Handicap. Rising apprentice star Cassie Papineau won with three of her eight mounts. Kate Repp had three calls, and fledgling apprentice Karin Kisfaludy had one.

Kisfaludy, 28, who galloped horses in Southern California before coming to Emerald Downs this spring, is looking for her first career victory. Whitaker, 37, has 321 victories at Emerald, including the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile aboard Wasserman last August. Hoonan-Trujillo, 42, has 226 victories and rode Starbird Road in 2006 when he ran six furlongs in a track-record 1:07.40. Repp, 27, has ridden 130 winners at Emerald and was the track's leading apprentice in 2006.

But Papineau, 21, could be the best of the bunch. The Kennewick, Wash., native rode her first winner June 25 at Les Bois Downs in Boise and won 37 races at Turf Paradise this winter. She won with her first mount here, Gavel in the first race on opening night, and has 11 wins through the first nine days of the meeting. She stands to obliterate the season record of 47 wins by an apprentice set by Whitaker in 2001. She sits third in the jockey standings, six behind leader Ricky Frazier.

Agent Boone McCanna has Papineau's book. They met after trainer Dan Kenney told McCanna that Papineau could be a star in the making. Kenney had a string of horses at Turf Paradise and helped teach Papineau the riding game, McCanna said. Some of Emerald Downs's top trainers - Tim McCanna (Boone's brother), Blaine Wright, Robbie Baze, Pete Axmaker, and Terry Gillihan - have employed Papineau in the early part of the 91-day meeting.

"She definitely seems to know what she's doing up there," Gillihan said. "I've seen her in the mornings, and when horses act up, she's real professional. She knows how to handle them."

Moreno scores in Seattle Handicap

Carlos Moreno has enjoyed a lot of success at Portland Meadows, but the going has been tougher at Emerald Downs, where the 54-year-old trainer has won with only 17 of his 195 starters. His fortunes took a turn for the better Sunday, however, when his Kruger Park zipped to a front-running victory in the $30,000 Seattle Handicap, beating a stellar field of older handicap stars with designs on the Longacres Mile later this summer. It was Moreno's first stakes victory at Emerald Downs.

The victory was particularly sweet because Moreno and his wife, Maria, claimed Kruger Park for $50,000 out of his most recent start March 22 at Santa Anita. Moreno said he had scouted out Kruger Park and at one point offered Southern California-based trainer Patrick Gallagher $70,000 for the 5-year-old gelding. Gallagher and Kruger Park's owners declined, Moreno said, but a month later, the horse was entered for $50,000 and claim slips went flying. Moreno said he won a four-way shake for Kruger Park, a gray son of Johannesburg who had done most of his racing on turf.

"I got pure lucky," Moreno said.

Now, he and his wife have a Mile contender.

"He's got an extra gear; that's what you look for in a racehorse," Moreno said after Kruger Park dispatched eight rivals in the Seattle Handicap, running six furlongs in 1:08.60.

Moreno figures Kruger Park can win in a variety of ways; he doesn't need the lead.

"He's better from off the pace," he said, pointing to several stalking trips on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita. "When I looked at the horse, I said he'll be a great miler."

* Jockey Seth Martinez arrived from Phoenix this week after finishing the meeting at Turf Paradise, where he was fourth in the standings with 77 wins. The defending Emerald riding champion, Martinez has spotted Frazier a 16-win lead, but that's hardly insurmountable. Frazier had 28 wins last season before Martinez arrived. Martinez then went on a season-long tear, overhauling Frazier in the final week to win the title 121-117. Frazier won Emerald riding titles in 2006 and 2007.

* Racing for 2-year-olds is scheduled to begin this weekend, a week earlier than in 2008. Director of racing Bret Anderson wrote six juvenile races into the condition book for the three-day weekend, but the first one, a $20,000 maiden claimer for fillies scheduled for Friday, attracted just two entries.