12/19/2005 1:00AM

Little Boot gets the hot rider

Email

When Julien Leparoux climbs aboard Little Boot in the featured ninth race Wednesday night at Turfway Park, he will do so as the hottest young rider at the Florence, Ky., track.

Leparoux, 22, rode a career-high four winners Sunday at Turfway, putting him in a tie for third in the jockey standings at the holiday meet that began Nov. 27. Leparoux won three straight races, the second through fourth, before also winning the eighth.

"It was wonderful," said Leparoux, who was raised in France and lived there before coming to the United States two years ago to work for trainer Patrick Biancone, a fellow Frenchman. "It was like a dream for me."

After exercising horses for Biancone for about a year and a half, Leparoux began race-riding at the Saratoga meet last summer. He won three times from 20 mounts, becoming the first apprentice in recent memory to win that many races at Saratoga while competing with a 10-pound allowance. He also won twice at the Belmont fall meet before moving back to Kentucky with Biancone for the Keeneland and Churchill Downs fall meets, where he was blanked at both places, having ridden a combined 23 mounts.

At Turfway, Leparoux has gained momentum while steadily picking up more competitive mounts. With 14 wins from 55 starters, he is tied with veteran Willie Martinez, trailing only Jesus Castanon (19 wins) and Eddie Martin Jr. (16) atop the standings.

"I am committed to staying here through the winter," said Leparoux, who is represented by agent Steve Bass, a former jockey. "I also will ride at Keeneland in the spring, then make a decision whether to stay or move back to New York."

With Little Boot, Leparoux stands a decent chance of maintaining a hot hand. , a 3-year-old filly owned by a partnership headed by Louisville businessman Steve "Tiny" Lancaster, drew post 3 in a field of 11 entered in the ninth of 10 Wednesday races, a $25,000 entry-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Although Little Boot was soundly beaten at this same level in her last start on Nov. 2 at Churchill, she is 1 for 1 over the Polytrack surface at Turfway and appears to match up well against her Wednesday opposition.

Probably the toughest foe for Little Boot will be the filly drawn alongside in post 2: , who makes her first start for new connections after an impressive Churchill win in her last start.