12/29/2001 1:00AM

Meaningful start for Camilo and L&D Farms

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OLDSMAR Fla. - He's 6, and a headstrong, somewhat unpredictable son of Hooched - one of racing's better low-priced studs - but when Meaningful sets his mind to running he can turn some heads. That's just what he did at Tampa Bay Downs on Friday in the ninth race when he pulled away from the competition through the stretch for a convincing win, the third for L&D Farms and trainer Juan Camilo at the current meeting.

The L&D operation is headed by Larry Vaughn. Camilo has been with Vaughn since John Shoemaker retired as L&D's trainer several years ago. Camilo, a former rider, said there's no secret behind his quick start this season, just hard work and happy horses.

"We're not doing much different than past years," Camilo said Saturday. "When we shipped down we gave the horses a couple of weeks off, freshened them up, and it really seemed to help. Like humans, they need some break time, too.

"As for Meaningful, he's a little headstrong, he likes to get out so we have to run him in a big scoop blinker. Two starts back" - he ran second after leading much of the way - "the rider [Pedro Gonzalez] had never ridden him before and Meaningful pretty much did his thing, going way out past the middle of the track. But yesterday Gonzalez was ready for him and kept him from drifting until the very end. He likes the deep track here and that helps, too."

Camilo currently has 10 horses on the grounds with five more coming soon. "I've got great help and a good owner, that makes my job that much easier. Mr. Vaughn has shown a lot of confidence since giving me the job, which I appreciate."

Vaughn is a local businessman who has been successful in several ventures, including supplying food products to correctional facilities around the country. Vaughn is also heavily committed to his Thoroughbred interests. He owns a farm with a training track up Race Track road from Tampa Bay Downs and is considering purchasing other farms and facilities nearby. This year, Vaughn teamed up with partners to purchase yearlings and 2-year-olds from several sales.

Jockey success stories

Meaningful's rider, Gonzalez, who was ranked among the leaders in Puerto Rico before coming to this country, scored a riding double on Friday's card and has fared well in his limited riding engagements.

Another rider who has made the best of his opportunities is Melvin Toro, who rode both ends of the early daily double on Thursday and looks very comfortable, especially on front-running types.

Bobby Walker, of Shreveport La., served notice right he could get the job done when he booted home Bog Hunter in the Inaugural Stakes opening day and has three winners at the meet. Walker finished a solid fourth behind Derek Bell in the rider standings at Canterbury Park this summer.

Pedro Rodriguez leads all riders with 10 wins from 32 mounts, two more than Terry Houghton's eight. Juan Umana is third with six wins.

James Michaels and Jason Coyote are tied with Camilo among trainers with three wins.