06/24/2003 11:00PM

Reinvigorated Tohill back for summer visit


PLEASANTON, Calif. - For the next nine days, jockey Ken Tohill will be at home, maybe for the last time, as he rides at the Alameda County Fair.

The 41-year-old rider, whose first victory came here in 1979, is riding on the fair circuit this summer, but his future may lie elsewhere.

"I'm going to stay the summer and get everything in order," he said.

Tohill, who has 1,507 victories, has found a new home riding at Albuquerque, and he plans to return to New Mexico to ride at Sunland as well.

The son of jockey Charlie Tohill and trainer Val Tohill knows all sides of the business and says of New Mexico, "It's nice to see places where purses are going up."

Tohill admits he had soured on the business when trainer Bret Layne suggested that he might like the more laid-back lifestyle in Albuquerque.

"I went down to see what it was like, and I really enjoyed it," Tohill said. "Bret and [owner] Bennie Lafever gave me a push to go down and help them out. Bret said I would relax and start riding like I used to."

Layne was right.

Tohill enjoyed success at Albuquerque, capped off by winning the meet's two biggest stakes races, the $43,000 Albuquerque Derby aboard Fame Ina Minute and the $109,050 Albuquerque Handicap aboard Moro Grande on the final weekend.

"I'm not a workaholic like my mother," Tohill said. "I'll take time if I need it. For almost five years, I needed an alarm clock to get me going. Now I don't. It's a big difference.

"It's still a lot of work, but I don't mind. I was in Albuquerque for eight weeks and took only one day off. I'd work eight to 12 each morning by choice because I just enjoyed it."

Because his mother trains, Tohill understands how tough the business has become in California.

"People in other states don't have near the trouble they do here," he said. "It's so nice to walk up to a conversation in a barn that's cute and not a lot of complaining.

"What's happening here makes it hard for people associated in all ends of the business. Workers' comp and taxes are so tough on horsemen, I don't see how they survive. I don't comprehend why the state doesn't try to help the industry."

The Albuquerque meet ended June 8, and Tohill returned for the start of the fair circuit at Stockton. He has been successful too, riding 12 winners.

Tohill is listed to ride only one mount Friday, Leavenopapertrail in the seventh race.

* The feature on the 10-race card is a six-furlong allowance race for fillies and mares. Jaciro is the lone 3-year-old in the field of seven. Evitan Native, who won here last year, is also entered.