07/26/2002 12:00AM

A proving ground for jockeys


MIAMI - Calder Racecourse has been known as a breeding ground for talented young horses with a 2-year-old program second to none. But south Florida's summer racing home has also earned a solid reputation as the launching pad for some pretty talented jockeys as well. No more so than at the present time with recent graduates of the local colony atop the rider standings at Monmouth Park, Arlington Park, Delaware Park, and Colonial Downs.

Through Thursday's races, Eibar Coa, a seven-time Calder titlist, was seven victories in front of another former local champion, Jose Velez Jr., in quest of his second straight Monmouth Park crown. Jose Ferrer, Calder's leading rider in 1998, was fifth at Monmouth.

Rene Douglas, a former Calder champion and the only jockey to win six races on a card here - he did it on two separate occasions - appears well on his way to his second straight Arlington Park riding title.

Ramon Dominguez, a Calder regular from 1996 to 1998, was dominating the standings at Delaware Park and was second in winners nationally before breaking his wrist in a spill on Wednesday.

Horacio Karamanos, who finished eighth in the standings here last summer, ran away with the championship at Colonial with 57 winners.

This kind of success among graduates of the Calder riding colony is not new. Among other former Calder regulars to have gone on to bigger and better things are Jorge Chavez, Jose Santos, Edgar Prado, and Alex Solis.

"A lot of good riders have begun their careers here," said veteran jockey agent Gil Graell, who handles engagements for Calder's current king of the hill, Cornelio Velasquez.

"It's just that people outside of Florida don't know them when they start out," Graell said. "Calder has always been the first place a lot of very talented riders from Central and South America come to begin their careers in this country. The majority of them don't even speak English when they arrive so it's difficult for them to communicate with trainers or the media. So they just don't get the attention they might have otherwise.

"But once they've been here for a while and have an opportunity to get situated, they not only get more polished in their riding skills but also learn to communicate better, which helps them when they head north."

A rest for Sir Bear and Royal Lad

Trainer Ralph Ziadie reports that he has backed off a bit on the training of both Sir Bear and Royal Lad and will now point them for stakes engagements at Turfway Park on Sept. 14. Sir Bear will compete in the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic while Royal Lad goes in the $150,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint.

"Both horses are galloping regularly although I haven't breezed either of them since their last starts," Ziadie said. "I was thinking about taking Royal Lad to Saratoga for the Amsterdam Stakes next weekend but decided it might be bringing him back too quick, and the race might be a bit too tough for him at this point."

Royal Lad won the $400,000 Carry Back Stakes here on July 14.

* Calder will be dark from Monday through Friday of next week, and horsemen are reminded that entries for Saturday, Aug. 3, will be taken this Sunday. The racetrack will be closed for training Monday through Wednesday. The starting gate will be open for schooling on Thursday.