08/29/2008 12:00AM

Meet puts three riders on the rise


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When the 2008 Arlington Park meet began, the jockeys Brandon Meier, Inez Karlsson, and Junior Alvarado, had combined to win a grand total of one horserace at Arlington. That lonely victory was Karlsson's only win from 25 mounts at last year's meet. Back then, Alvarado had never ridden in Chicago, and Meier wasn't even yet a jockey.

This summer? Entirely different story. The three newcomers to the Chicago circuit have combined to win 132 races, and going into Friday's action stood fifth, seventh, and eighth in the current rider standings. Meier, a five-pound apprentice, leads the way with 52 wins, but the five-pound apprentice Karlsson is not far behind at 42, with Alvarado just two more back at 40.

Now, with Arlington's conclusion around the corner, the question is what's next for this trio. The only one with plans that appear to be set firmly for the remainder of the year is Alvarado, who came from Calder in late May, but seems like he's here for the long term. Alvarado has made surprisingly strong inroads with Chicago-based horsemen, and will move directly to Hawthorne after the Arlington meet concludes, his agent, Oscar Sanchez, said Friday.

"He loves it here," said Sanchez. "He's a good rider, and it makes it so much easier when you've got that going."

Alvarado, 23-year-old native of Venezuela, still is acquiring English skills. He understands most of what is said to him, and can read well enough, Sanchez said, but remains shy about talking.

Karlsson also hails from a far-away land, and is proving this summer to be much more than an exotic story. Besides being the rare female jock, Karlsson is Swedish, and also used to be am amateur boxer. But her riding skills have advanced markedly in the last year, and her business has picked up accordingly. Karlsson has a pair of four-win days this meet, and has become the first-call rider for trainer Frank Kirby's large operation. She said Friday she plans to go to the Hawthorne fall meet, but left open the possibility of moving her tack before her apprentice allowance expires Jan. 10.

"It looks like I'm going [to Hawthorne], but you take it day by day and see what happens," Karlsson said. "It's one of those games where you never know."

Meier, the son of veteran reinsman Randy Meier, has much more time left on his apprentice allowance, and said Friday he has not decided what to do at meet's end. He mentioned Kentucky as a possibility, and conceded that a move to Aqueduct for the winter - a hotbed for apprentice riders - was possible.

Meier, who launched his career early this meet, has gotten a lot of support from trainer Wayne Catalano, but he has not been riding many Catalano-trained horses lately, and still has more than held his own.

"I've outdone what I expected," Meier said. "I think I've improved a lot from the start. I showed I was green with the whip and everything at first. The more you ride, though, the more you have a chance to learn."

Mamma Lina key Lassie candidate

The 2-year-old filly Mamma Lina looked like no ordinary Illinois-bred even before she made her career debut. A daughter of Langfuhr, she sold for $280,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale in April - and looked worth every bit of it when she debuted with a geared-down 14-length win against Illinois-bred maidens here July 30. A much sterner test should come next weekend in the Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Mamma Lina got her career started not that long after she was purchased by the Savoy Stable, but the transition from hot sales horse to racehorse was not all that easy, according to trainer Dale Bennett.

"She was a little cranked up," Bennett said. "It's part of her personality, but she was a little more so from the sale. We had to teach her to gear down a little, teach her to relax - she wanted to run off all the time."

Bennett's work so far has paid off. Mamma Lina hinted at getting hot in the paddock before her first race, but she made it onto the track without incident, was well-behaved in the post parade, and rated nicely for jockey Eddie Perez before drawing off in the stretch.

"She was well in hand, her ears were up," said Bennett. "I think she does more in the morning than she did in that race."

Mamma Lina had an in-company five-furlong work in a bullet 59 seconds last Sunday. She broke off a few lengths behind her workmate, caught her, and galloped out strongly, Bennett said.

"I don't think a mile's going to be a problem for her," Bennett said, referring to the Lassie's distance. "I'd love to have another race in her, but I couldn't force one in."

o Subcultural Girl already is the only horse at the meet with four wins, and she goes for number five in the featured race 8 here Sunday. Subcultural Girl exits an entry-level Illinois-bred allowance victory, but faces at least two more talented rivals - Nicks and Marvelez - in a six-furlong race for second-level Illinois-bred allowance horses