04/02/2005 12:00AM

Rack Em Up ran hard every time


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Rack Em Up, a hard-trying 7-year-old gelding, fell suddenly entering the stretch of the ninth race on March 26, unseating jockey Melvin Toro. Rack Em Up subsequently had to be euthanized, saddening Larry Vaughn and his staff at L & D Farm, which owned and bred the classy turf specialist.

While Rack Em Up only won 4 of 49 starts, he was the type of horse a player could never leave out of his exotic wagering plans, because he always showed up and was usually right in the thick of things. Rack Em Up earned more than $115,000 while finishing on the board in half of his races.

Toro was not seriously injured in the spill and came back to win a race Tuesday.

Escobar warming up

L & D Farm found a little solace on Tuesday when Martin Escobar rode Anise's Wild Girl ($9.20) to victory for L & D in the nightcap.

Escobar, a longtime assistant to trainer Bernell Rhone, decided several years ago at age 26 to take the plunge and try to become a rider. He has gone on to forge a nice career for himself, and last summer had his best meeting ever when he won 59 races at Canterbury to finish third in the overall standings.

Escobar arrived at Tampa late this season after spending several months in his native Mexico, overseeing construction of a new home for his family. Escobar has six victories at the meet.

Another jockey who shipped in after the beginning of the meeting and has been winning his share of races is Huber Villa-Gomez, who won more than 100 races last year while riding primarily at Thistledown and making side trips to Mountaineer Park. Villa-Gomez has won 16 races at the meet and has managed to secure mounts from trainers Ray Tamargo and Deborah Simpson.

Former rider Klinke visits track

Billy Klinke, one of the more popular riders in the colony here for several seasons before injuries forced his retirement after winning more than 1,000 races, was a recent visitor.

Klinke, who stands just 4-foot-3, jokes that "actually I've shrunk, I'm just 4-foot-2 now." He is co-founder of the TEAM foundation, which stands for "Teasing Effects All Mentally." He and former pro wrestler Chris Hollyfield give motivational speeches to students and show them that size doesn't matter if a person has drive.