10/11/2003 12:00AM

McArthur rising through ranks


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Jerry McArthur isn't sure if he's an overnight sensation, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, or simply on a roll, but Bay Meadows' hottest trainer is enjoying life these days.

He's started eight horses at the meeting and won five times. When he poses for pictures in the winner's circle now, track announcer Tony Calo tells race fans that the "General" has returned to the winner's circle.

"I don't know where he came up with that," McArthur said, "but now everyone gives me grief about it and calls me 'General.' "

The 50-year-old McArthur has had a trainer's license for 11 years and has eight horses in his stable.

"This is the first year I've had this many horses," he said. "Usually, I've only had one or two for myself."

McArthur's introduction to the game came in Southern California as an owner.

"I moved north, but I kind of liked the game and wanted to stay involved," he said. "It gets in your blood, and you can't shake loose."

McArthur was in the construction industry as a tile contractor, but 11 years ago he took out his trainer's license and handled his own horses. As he's acquired clients, he has spent more time at the track and less time laying tile.

McArthur has won with 16 of 51 starters this year.

On Wednesday, he won an allowance race with King of Rulers straight off a $12,500 claim. "I wanted him for myself, but one of my clients liked him so I claimed him for him," McArthur said referring to owner Charles Lo.

McArthur won again Thursday with Acting Maudlin.

"Everything's clicking right now," he said. "I'm finding the right spots."

Having more horses in his barn has been a help because it gives him more options. He says that when a trainer has only one or two runners, "you don't want to lose them and end up putting them in over their head, then they don't win. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

He credits groom Ruben Ramirez for his patience with horses and says nutritionist Brad Scott has helped him with his feeding program.

* Two-year-old fillies running one mile and older fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs are the top two races on Monday's holiday card. Strawberriesncream, winner of two straight, and stakes-placed Flag Burner both come off victories in starter allowance sprints in the 2-year-old race that opens the card. Buccaneer Babe goes for her third straight win in the allowance sprint.