06/18/2002 12:00AM

Pimentel still getting live mounts


OCEANPORT, N.J. - On his first mount the day he lost his bug last Dec. 13, Julian Pimentel won aboard a horse trained by Buddy Carlesimo at Aqueduct. So much for the complications that arrive when an apprentice loses his weight allowance and becomes a journeyman.

Of course, when an apprentice loses his bug the transition is never smooth. But Pimentel has managed to take things in stride to start off his career as a journeyman. Pimentel tied for fourth in the jockey standings last year at Monmouth Park as an apprentice, and as of Sunday he sits in eighth place with nine wins this meet. Last Saturday, he recorded three wins, clearly his best day as a journeyman and his best at Monmouth this summer.

"It's been tough," Pimentel said. "It's always tough when you lose your bug. I guess I've been lucky."

Pimentel, 21, was part of arguably the strongest apprentice colony in Monmouth history last year. Pimentel, a native of Colombia, had 49 wins here last year. Victor Carrero finished third in the standings with 58 wins and he has gone on to become the leading bug rider at Belmont. Carrero, who broke his ankle in the fall at Belmont, was given an extension on his apprenticeship and is tied for eighth in the Belmont jockeys standings with 12 wins. Jorge Duarte Jr., whose bug ended after last year's Monmouth meet, was also in the top 10 here last year with 24 wins. Duarte, 17, is now riding at Philadelphia Park with good success for a new journeyman.

After the 2001 Monmouth meet, Pimentel went on to become the leading rider at The Meadowlands as an apprentice, a feat accomplished only twice previously in the track's history. He had 57 wins at the meet and his mounts earned a meet-high $1,697,368. Because he did so well at Monmouth and The Meadowlands last year, he has not lost many mounts this summer. Pimentel has ridden often for Danny Lopez and Jimmy Ryerson, and recently picked up mounts for Vicki Oliver.

Pimentel's transition has been eased by his strong ties to New York trainers. He started his riding career at Aqueduct, and was an exercise rider for Bill Mott for three years. Pimentel rides for Richard Dutrow when he sends horses here, and he has ridden Mott's horses when the trainer ships in for stakes. In the $50,000 Politely Stakes two weekends ago, Pimentel rode the Mott-trained Sluice to a runner-up finish. He was also named on Rob's Spirit, one of the likely favorites in the Grade 3 Oceanport last Saturday, but the horse, along with six others, was scratched when that race came off the turf.

It is these stakes opportunities that help Pimentel get even better mounts here. Trainers who might be wary of a jockey who has recently lost his bug are convinced of Pimentel's talent when they watch him ride well in big situations.

"I hope little by little I can pick up more business," Pimentel said. "I just want to do well and keep winning races."

Pimentel said he likes Monmouth and plans on riding here for years to come. As for long-term goals, he said it would be nice to win a riding title.

With the success he has achieved as an apprentice and now as a first-year journeyman, expect Pimentel to be at the top of the standings sooner rather than later.

Party Queen recuperates from illness

Party Queen, probably the best 3-year-old turf filly stabled here, returned to the track for the first time in weeks Monday after coming down with a sickness that kept her in the barn and prevented her from running in the Grade 3 Sands Point at Belmont last Sunday. She went through a light jog Monday.

Party Queen, trained by Vicki Oliver, is 3 for 4 on the turf, with the only blemish on her turf record a fourth-place finish in a two-other-than allowance at Gulfstream Park on March 20. She most recently won an allowance at Keeneland on April 24.

Oliver said she planned on running Party Queen in the Sands Point, but she came down with a sickness that has hit many horses throughout the backside.

"It may have been a blessing in disguise, though," Oliver said. "It's given her a chance to settle in and get a break."

Oliver said Party Queen might make her next start in the $50,000 Twin Lights Stakes July 6, but she has also is pointing Revidere Stakes winner Once Around to the race and may not want to run the two against each other. Oliver said Party Queen is a late-closing filly and the Monmouth turf course may not favor her style. The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup at Keeneland is the main goal for Party Queen.

Beware of Michael's Pride

Thursday's feature, carded as the eighth race, is a $37,000 three-other-than optional claimer at one mile that looks fairly open.

Michael's Pride has shown the versatility to be on the lead or just off the pace. He will probably offer value to bettors because of his stretch out to one mile, but his trainer, George Gross, wins 42 percent of the time with that angle. Michael's Pride is coming out of a third-place finish in a money allowance here June 6. The winner of that race, Ticket to Freedom, returned to run third in the $50,000 Longfellow Stakes last Sunday.

Breaking from the rail, jockey Eddie King should be able to navigate Michael's Pride to good position.

Maryland-based trainer Dale Capuano ships in his first starter of the meet with Bandi's Boy. He wired the field and won by more than seven lengths in a lower-level claiming race at Pimlico, and he may be quick enough to get out in front of this seven-horse field.