11/30/2007 1:00AM

Lebron latest hot young jockey

EmailIn recent years Turfway Park has been the winter base for jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux, both of whom have since gone on to national prominence. There does not appear to be another star-in-the-making at Turfway this winter, but at least one youthful jockey intends to make the most of the room at the top.

Victor Lebron, a 23-year-old former supermarket stock clerk in his native St. Croix, won three races Thursday night at the Florence, Ky., track, taking the early lead at a holiday meet that runs through Dec. 31. Lebron, who came to the United States in 2004, is in just his third year of riding, although he said his father had pleasure horses when he was growing up in the Virgin Islands.

"But I never raced on the racetrack until I got here," said Lebron, who has had a house in Erlanger, Ky., near Turfway, for about a year.

Lebron, with Jimmy McNerney as his agent, has made steady progress in his short time in the U.S. He began riding in 2005, winning with just 9 of 184 mounts, before gaining a foothold last year. Working a circuit that consists primarily of Turfway, River Downs, Hoosier Park, and Ellis Park, Lebron rode 141 winners in 2006 for nearly $1.6 million in mount earnings and has already outdone himself this year. Into Friday action, he has won 210 races and nearly $2.5 million in purses.

His three-win night on Thursday came with Motown Shuffle ($34.20) in the first, Derrick ($7) in the second, and Sterling Heat ($7.20) in the ninth. Lebron already has won four races on one program on two occasions, once each at Hoosier and River.

Lebron said he is aware that Bejarano, now 25, and Leparoux, 24, used Turfway to win races in bunches and to gain experience and national attention, but he said he does not want to think about making such a quantum leap quite yet.

"I am just riding at Turfway right now," he said. "I don't have my mind set on anything. I will see where it takes me."

With Bejarano and Leparoux riding in California, and Miguel Mena, the leading rider at the 2006 holiday meet, having moved to Fair Grounds for the winter, Lebron is one of a handful of candidates to fill the void. Brian Hernandez Jr., Terry Thompson, and John McKee figure to fare well at the holiday meet, but all have said they intend to ride elsewhere during the three-month winter-spring meet that begins Jan. 1. Lebron surely will be in the top mix thereafter, along with veterans Rodney Prescott, Dean Sarvis, Bill Troilo, and apprentices Dylan Williams and Fernando De La Cruz.

* Sunday's feature is a $26,000 second-level allowance that drew a field of nine fillies and mares. Initforthekandy, coming off a runner-up finish at Churchill Downs, and New Dimension, scratched from the Holiday Inaugural on Saturday, look like the ones to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong race.

* Tres Delaforce saddled her first winner Thursday night when Kite Falcon upset the eighth race at 66-1. Delaforce, the daughter of a U.S. Air Force serviceman, moved permanently to the U.S. in 1990 and has held a variety of equine-related jobs. Kite Falcon was the eighth starter of her training career.

* Trainer Greg Foley is approaching the 1,000-win milestone. Into the Saturday card, Foley had won 993 races. Foley, 50, has been the dominant trainer at Turfway in recent years while based solely in Louisville, but has said he intends to take a string this winter to Oaklawn Park.