06/18/2003 12:00AM

Migliore: Substance over flash


No, it's not some sort of unofficial farewell tour. Jockey Richard Migliore was honored with the Mike Venezia Award last month and was invited to participate for the first time Friday in the All-Star Jockey Challenge at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

What next, the George Woolf Award?

"That'd be nice to top things off, wouldn't it?" Migliore said Wednesday from Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. "Actually, I hope it's not a farewell tour. I'd like to think I've got a few good years left in me."

The reality is that, at age 39, Migliore might have more than a few good years in a riding career that has been remarkably productive, if not overly flashy. Raised in Brooklyn and Bay Shore, Migliore has come to personify the consummate professional, someone who has put his innate intelligence and athleticism to full potential while also displaying uncommon courage in overcoming a number of serious injuries.

"He's a super-nice guy, and he knows the business," said Drew Mollica, the veteran agent who works for Migliore. "He probably hasn't gotten the credit he deserves because he's not controversial."

Last weekend served as a prime example of why Migliore was chosen to ride in the All-Star competition - and why retirement isn't even on his radar screen. He swept the weekend stakes races at Belmont, winning the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap aboard Iron Deputy Saturday and the Sands Point Stakes with Savedbythelight Sunday.

Those victories were just the latest in a career that has Migliore closing in on 3,800 wins and $125 million in purse earnings. Since 1981, when he was named the Eclipse Award winner as top apprentice, Migliore has been as steady and reliable as virtually any jockey in North America, not counting when injuries sidelined him, including a near-fatal neck injury in 1988 and a badly broken arm in 1999.

Based year-round in New York, where he lives in Garden City with his wife, Carmella, and four children, Migliore rode at Gulfstream Park in Florida during three recent winter meets but otherwise prefers staying close to home. He has had ample opportunity to travel, having also ridden in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and California. "But," he said, "I've never ridden in Texas, and I have to admit that I'm pretty excited about it. Riding's been my passion, and I've been extremely fortunate to travel to so many wonderful places only because I'm doing what I love to do. Texas is the next stop."

Migliore was chosen as an All-Star after fellow New York jockey John Velazquez bowed out, citing previous engagements. Migliore said the opportunity to be one of 12 jockeys spotlighted in the All-Star competition is an honor.

"It's a great lineup of riders, so I feel fortunate just to be part of it," he said.

Migliore long has been nicknamed "The Mig," which also happens to be the acronym for the World War II MiG fighter jets.

Given Migliore's determined riding style, the nickname fits. Migliore has been the overall leading rider twice in New York and nine times at Aqueduct, and his recent statistics suggest no signs of a slowdown. His mounts earned more than $8.9 million in 2001 and more than $8.6 million last year, and he is on pace again this year to post similar numbers.

Even though he has never won a Triple Crown or Breeders' Cup race, Migliore long ago earned the respect of his fellow riders and thousands of racing fans. If the All-Star competition is about showcasing jockeys with exemplary qualifications and qualities, then Migliore, making his Texas debut, should fit in very well.