02/05/2005 12:00AM

Latest apprentice riders try to show their stuff

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Julie Krone and Willie Martinez are just a few of the many riders who have come to Tampa Bay Downs as unknown apprentices and used big meetings here as springboards for their fledgling careers. This season, a new crop of bug riders is scuffling for mounts, hoping for opportunities to show what they can do.

Jordan Charkoudian won two races on last Tuesday's program, booting home longshot Jr's Bonus ($40.80) for trainer Deborrah Artz in the second race and Sadies Lad ($6.80) in the fifth for trainer James Michael. That riding double brought the 10-pound apprentice's win total to five at the current stand. Charkoudian, who used to work for trainer Bobby Frankel, is 26 years old and has Frank Garoufalis handling her engagements. Garoufalis is the longtime agent for T.D. Houghton, who finished fifth in the country last season in races won, and Federico Mata.

Jennifer Schmidt, a seven-pound apprentice, won three races from eight mounts the previous week and has four wins at the meet. Herson Sanchez handles her book.

Chris Creary, who is tall for a rider but sits a horse well, has impressed observers with his poise at this stage of his career. He has one win from 11 mounts at the stand, while another apprentice, Ruben Rojas, has won two races at the meeting.

An all-Cronk pick three

If you liked horses trained by Sam Cronk in the early pick three on Thursday, you made out like a bandit as Cronk runners swept the second, third, and fourth races on the program.

Juan Umana booted home Cross Keys ($7.60) in the second, Ricardo Valdes was aboard Run for Sam ($11.80) in the third, and Umana won again aboard Lost Patrol ($7.40). The pick three paid $177.60.

It was the second time in his career here that Cronk has sent out three winners on a program. Others to accomplish the feat at this track are Don Rice, Lynn Scace, Greg Griffith, Duane Knipe, and Richard Ciardullo Jr.

The record for wins on a single program by a trainer here is four, set by Kathleen O'Connell on Feb. 23, 2003.

- Dry Ice got dusted the first time he ran here following a long layoff, but he has buried his opposition in four straight races now for trainer Don Rice. Dry Ice toyed with a field of starter-handicap runners on the turf this past week and is the points leader in the Tampa Turf Test, a series of turf races for horses who have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less.