09/11/2005 11:00PM

Pedroza, blanked twice, off to slow start


POMONA, Calif. - Has the Fairplex Park jockey colony undergone a power shift? Or was opening weekend of the Los Angeles County Fair merely a bump in the road for the track's all-time leading rider?

Either way, if Martin Pedroza wins his seventh consecutive riding title, it will not be in a walkover like last year when he won a record 51 races. In the first three days of the 2004 meet, Pedroza won 10 races from 25 mounts. But after winning 4 of 10 on Friday, opening day of 2005, Pedroza went 0 for 20, counting being blanked on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday was the first day Pedroza blanked at Fairplex since Sept. 21, 2003, a span of 24 racing days in which he won at least one Fairplex race. The drought allowed Matt Garcia to emerge as the top jockey after three days of the 16-day meet. Garcia won six races from 22 mounts; Felipe Martinez (18 mounts) and Pedroza (30 mounts) were tied for second with four wins each.

"There's a handful of good riders here, and it looks like a wide-open race to me," trainer Jeff Mullins said. "Matt Garcia is rolling right along, Carlos Silva is riding the track good, and along with David Flores, there are a few riders who could give Martin some fits."

Flores plans to ride only selected races; Pat Valenzuela will ride only in stakes. That leaves Garcia as the jockey most likely to give Pedroza a run for his money.

Garcia defers credit to where it belongs.

"Being on the right horses is the main thing," he said. "[Horsemen] are giving me the opportunity on decent horses, and they're running well. That's really the bottom line."

With six wins the first three days, Garcia has nearly equaled his eight-win total from last year's meet. He has a chance to add to that when he rides Say Tomorrow for trainer Mel Stute on Wednesday in the $60,000 Beau Brummel Stakes. Stute has been using Garcia for more than eight years; they combined for back-to-back Pomona Handicap wins with Score Quick in 1997-98.

"The reason I started riding him when he first came around was he had no fear," Stute said. "He's always ridden well for me. He stays out of a horse's way and lets the horse take him around."

Despite a subpar opening weekend, Pedroza remains the favorite to lead the standings and add to his record Fairplex total. Pedroza entered the meet with 431 career wins at Fairplex. While Mullins said he will spread out his mounts among Kerwin John, Silva, Garcia and Luis Jauregui, he said that Pedroza "probably knows this track better than anyone."

"It's always an advantage having him, but you've obviously got to have the horsepower," Mullins said.

And it helps to ride 2-5 shots, such as Eden Simone, the favorite in the first Thoroughbred race on Monday. Pedroza popped the gate on Eden Simone and led gate to wire in the $32,000 maiden claiming race for fillies and mares at about four furlongs. Eden Simone paid $2.80, and ended the Pedroza's drought.

Bro Lo heading to New York

Del Mar Futurity winner Stevie Wonderboy may be the most accomplished 2-year-old trained by Doug O'Neill, but California-bred gelding Bro Lo is the fastest. O'Neill said Monday that Bro Lo will ship to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes on Oct. 8, while Stevie Wonderboy and Futurity third-place finisher Jealous Profit remain in California to run Oct. 2 in the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes.

"The California Cup was a consideration [for Bro Lo], but we're thinking bigger things," O'Neill said.

Bro Lo is 2 for 2, and has earned two of the top Beyer Speed Figures this year by a 2-year-old. His 7 1/2-length win Sept. 5 in the I'm Smokin at Del Mar earned a 103. His maiden win July 20 earned a 101.

Bro Lo is not the only fast horse that O'Neill is sending on the road. Diligent Prospect's four-length win Sept. 9 in the $60,000 Foothill Stakes at Fairplex Park has given O'Neill reason to look for bigger prizes. He said Diligent Prospect will ship to Keeneland for the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes on Oct. 14. That seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds has a purse of $200,000.

In a career stalled by tender shins, Diligent Prospect was winning his third straight start and earning a 94 Beyer Figure as the 7-5 Foothill favorite. Ninety Fine finished second, Ransom Demanded third, and second favorite Swiss Lad sixth.

* Northern California-based trainer Andy Mathis shipped three horses to Fairplex Park from the Bay Area on opening weekend, and won three races - tying Mel Stute for the early lead in the trainer standings. Stute had 3 wins from 6 starts.