07/26/2007 11:00PM

Next generation in the business


A proud family legacy is being carried on at Ellis Park, where 16-year-old Dylan Williams has become the leading apprentice at the current meet while his father, 49-year-old R.D. "Rob" Williams, has joined him in the jockey colony.

Through Thursday, Dylan Williams had won 12 races at Ellis, good for a tie for fourth in the standings. Meanwhile, his dad arrived in time to ride Saturday at the Henderson, Ky., track, and plans to be here through the end of the meet on Sept. 3.

"One of us plans on staying with Dylan until he's 18," said Michelle Williams, Rob's wife and Dylan's mother. "From now to the end of the meet, that'll be Rob."

Dylan, the fourth of the couple's five children, is trying to fill some awfully big shoes. Rob, a winner of more than 4,200 races, was inducted earlier this month into the Nebraska Horse Racing Hall of Fame, joining his father, Dean Williams, a retired Daily Racing Form chart-caller who is an icon in Nebraska racing. Dean's late father, Floyd, also was a major figure on the Nebraska circuit, working as a trainer and as Rob's first agent.

When the Ellis meet ends, Dylan and agent Steve Elzey plan to move to Philadelphia Park, where slots-infused purses are starting to attract horsemen who otherwise would not have thought of moving there. The pair then will return to the Kentucky circuit in late November for the holiday and winter-spring meets at Turfway Park. Dylan, who has ridden at Fonner Park, Santa Anita, Prairie Meadows, and Canterbury Park since his career began Feb. 9, the day after his birthday, will have the benefit of his apprentice allowance throughout that period.

Elzey said Williams will have "five or six" mounts in the $600,000 Claiming Crown series next Saturday at Ellis.

Horses ship in for Claiming Crown

Most of the horses shipping into Ellis for the Claiming Crown will arrive Tuesday or Wednesday, according to event coordinator Nat Wess. The California contingent, which includes Soupy and Semi Lost, two of the top contenders for the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, is scheduled to arrive about noon on Wednesday, Wess said.

Among the out-of-town jockeys who plan to ride in the Claiming Crown are this foursome based at Arlington: Corey Lanerie, Larry Sterling Jr., Shane Laviolette, and Tim Thornton.

Entries for the Claiming Crown will be taken Wednesday. Eighty-six horses were pre-entered last week in the seven-race series.

Claiming Crown brings big fields

With more than 12 horses pre-entered in three of the Claiming Crown races, it's quite possible that something will occur at Ellis that never happens: fields bigger than 12. Fifteen pre-entries were taken for the $100,000 Emerald (a maximum of 14 will be permitted to start), while 13 were taken for both the $75,000 Rapid Transit and the $50,000 Express.

Although Ellis does not card fields larger than 12, both the turf and dirt courses are wide enough to handle bigger fields. Wess said carding 14-horse fields was not an issue when it was agreed last year that the event would move from Canterbury Park to Ellis.

* Sunday's feature at Ellis is a $22,000 entry-level turf allowance matching eight fillies and mares at 1o1/16 miles. Pine Shelter, from the Rusty Arnold stable, and Mary Cat, a recent winner after switching back from steeplechase races, are among the main contenders. The 10th of 11 races anchors a Sunday card that starts at 12:40 p.m. Central.