08/02/2004 11:00PM

A nice guy. Not a bad rider, either.

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Jockey Pablo Fragoso got off to a good start opening week at Saratoga and through Monday was tied for second in the standings with six wins.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - If nice guys finish last, then what is Pablo Fragoso doing in the winner's circle so often?

Talk to someone, anyone, about Fragoso and the conversation won't be two minutes old before that person tells you how nice a kid he is. Add the fact Fragoso's a naturally gifted rider, and you have the makings of, in the words of trainer Bobby Frankel, a potential "superstar."

Fragoso, 22, has really opened eyes at Saratoga, where during the first week of the meet he has won six races from 27 mounts. He's tied for second in the rider standings with Edgar Prado, behind only John Velazquez and ahead of such luminaries as Jerry Bailey and Pat Day.

And Fragoso has a large rooting section, including many with whom he shares the jockeys' room.

"He deserves it," said 40-year-old jockey Richard Migliore. "He's a good kid, he works hard, he's got not one bit of that attitude. Sometimes kids have success and all of a sudden they know it all and they start telling someone who's won almost 4,000 races how it's done. He doesn't have one bit of that. He takes every day as though he's still a work in progress; he's very mature."

Migliore noted that Fragoso has always ridden an intelligent race, but his physical maturity has helped him develop into a top rider.

"Physically, he's gotten much, much stronger," Migliore said. "He's made great strides in that department."

Frankel took notice of Fragoso during the winter, when he watched Aqueduct races on television from California. Last weekend, before Fragoso rode Ten Cents a Shine to victory for Frankel in a claiming race, Frankel compared Fragoso to Hall of Fame rider Eddie Delahoussaye.

"He's very cool, he's got so much patience, he doesn't get panicky," Frankel said. "That kid's going to be a superstar, and he's a nice kid."

Trainer Mark Hennig employed Fragoso as an exercise rider, groom, and hotwalker. Both of Hennig's winners at this meet - including a $99 first-time starter - have come with Fragoso in the irons.

"He continues to get better all the time," Hennig said. "He's working hard. He's going to be successful no matter what. He's a good kid, he listens, people like him. He's a breath of fresh air after some of the recent guys that have come here who have flashed a little talent, but didn't have the staying power."

Fragoso, a native of Tulancingo, Mexico, said experience has been key to his improvement. He didn't start riding until January 2003 and went 0 for 26 before recording his first victory. Fragoso finished the year with 103 winners and was named a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the nation's leading apprentice. Fragoso already has won 101 races this year and his mounts have earned $3.55 million.

"It's very different being an exercise rider and riding races," Fragoso said. "To ride races you need experience, which you get little by little. I'm very happy that God has given me the opportunity to ride with these jockeys, because they are the best in the world. It's like being in the best school."

Fragoso, as an apprentice, won the 2003-04 Aqueduct inner-track title with 72 winners. But, on April 21, Fragoso lost his apprentice status, and one week into his journeyman career, he suffered a broken collarbone when a green 2-year-old threw him over the rail at Aqueduct.

Fragoso missed almost two months, returning June 25 at Belmont. He won eight races during the last month of Belmont.

Fragoso and his current agent, Jose Morales, noted that Fragoso's former agent, Mike Kelly, played a huge role in Fragoso's success. New York rules stipulate that an agent may represent only one journeyman and one apprentice rider. Kelly is the agent for Javier Castellano and had to give up Fragoso when he lost his apprentice status.

"Without him he wouldn't be where he is today," Morales said of Kelly. "He did a good job with him, and he made it easier for me."

Fragoso, who has two young children with his girlfriend, Emerita Rojas, makes things easy on himself by the respectful manner in which he treats people. He knows where he came from.

"I grew up a hotwalker, a groom, an exercise rider, and it was nice when the jockeys came by the barn and would say hello," Fragoso said. "It costs you no money to be nice to everybody; everybody needs respect, the groom, the hotwalker, the trainer."