03/12/2002 1:00AM

Prather looks to Emerald

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Jockey Kris Prather, one of the top apprentice riders of 2001, has stopped riding at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va., and plans to ride at Emerald Downs in Auburn, Wash., when its meet begins on April 19.

It is the third move this winter for Prather, who is from Missoula, Mont., and whose career has been plagued by injuries since she led North American riders in wins during the first quarter of 2001. Last year she won 110 races through the end of March, predominantly at Turfway Park, and was a finalist for the 2001 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice.

After recovering from knee and shoulder injuries last year, Prather was again dominant at Turfway this winter before moving to Oaklawn in January. But she struggled there and left after winning with one of 27 mounts. Mountaineer Park followed, also with little success. She was injured twice in the starting gate and compiled a 1-for-17 record.

Prather is currently recovering from a knee injury. In the coming weeks she hopes to gain clearance from her doctor to begin working horses at Emerald Downs.

Following her difficulties at Oaklawn Park and Mountaineer, Prather said she needed to try a new circuit rather than return to Kentucky for the demanding Keeneland and Churchill Downs meets. "I'm sure I would have gotten a lot of flak for leaving," she said.

"I would have liked to have stayed at Oaklawn," she added. "But when I was hurt last year and didn't have insurance, economically I didn't have a big buffer zone."