08/01/2001 11:00PM

One day and two great races for Ramon Dominguez


Ramon Dominguez was overjoyed when he won the $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup at Delaware Park on July 22, describing it as the biggest victory of his young career. Just over an hour later, however, it was Dominguez's second-greatest thrill.

Two races after riding Navesink to victory in the Grade 3 Kent, Dominguez pulled off an even greater achievement, guiding longshot Irving's Baby to victory in the Grade 3, $600,000 Delaware Handicap.

"It was just an unbelievable feeling," said Dominguez, 24, who ranks sixth in the jockey standings here with 35 wins coming into Saturday's program. "It's just hard to believe that you can win the biggest race of your career and then two races later you win an even bigger race.

"It took awhile for it to sink in," he added. "As a matter of fact, I'm still pinching myself."

Several great jockeys first honed their skills in the Mid-Atlantic region. Chris McCarron, for example, was the leading rider at Delaware as an apprentice in 1974. Kent Desormeaux, winner of the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice in 1987, made a name for himself in Maryland.

Dominguez, who has been in the top 10 every season since moving his tack here in 1998, could be the next star to emerge from the Mid-Atlantic.

"I have faith that will happen eventually," said Dominguez, who began riding in his native Venezuela at age 16 and rode his first winner in the United States at Hialeah in 1996. "I am very happy with the way things are going so far. Two or three years ago, I did not expect my career to be where it is right now. If things keep going the way they are, hopefully, it is just a matter of time before I receive the chance to ride in big races on a steady basis."

The jockey Dominguez most admires, Edgar Prado, also has Mid-Atlantic roots. Prado was the dominant rider in Maryland for a long time and led the nation in wins three times (1997-99) before moving to New York.

"He is one of the greatest riders I have ever seen, not only on the track, but also as a gentleman," said Dominguez. "He is a very classy guy and talented. He really is somebody I use as a role model for my career."

Possible excuse for Jostle

Jostle, who ran fourth in the Delaware Handicap as the 4-5 favorite, may have been in heat, according to trainer John Servis.

"Sometimes when horses are in heat they do not run at all, and sometimes horses improve when they are in heat," Servis said. "She was in heat when she ran [poorly] in the Breeders' Cup, so I kind of think she is one of those horses that does not run well at all when she is in heat."

Servis does not have any immediate plans for Jostle. He said Zonk, the winner of the Delaware Oaks at odds of 29-1, could make her next in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 18.

* Jennifer Bramblett, last year's leading apprentice rider here with 20 wins, is moving to Arizona and plans to ride at Turf Paradise when it opens Sept. 28. Bramblett, 30, who finished fourth in the standings at Turfway Park last winter, has struggled here since losing her apprentice's status, posting a record of 3-9-18 in 101 mounts.