02/19/2002 1:00AM

Rose, latest in long line from a fertile circuit


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - The Maryland and Delaware region, which has produced so many sensational apprentice riders in the last 20 years, has done it again.

This time it was Jeremy Rose, voted the top apprentice in 2001. Rose, a Pennsylvania native, enjoyed a fabulous start to his career with his mounts winning 312 races and more than $6.6 million, easily best among all bug riders.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Rose's year was the way he dominated the jockeys' race at resurgent Delaware Park, winning 150 races and dethroning perennial leading rider Mike McCarthy. Overall, Rose won 10 stakes, with the richest being the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic aboard Sumerset in October.

Rose, 22, credits jockey Nick Petro and trainers Mike Petro and Tim Ritchey for the bulk of his success. A former high school wrestler who rode show horses as a youth, Rose worked closely with the Petro brothers for nearly two years before taking out an apprentice license. "They're the ones who actually taught me how to race-ride," he said. At the Eclipse dinner Monday night, Rose told the crowd he must have "won half my races for Tim Ritchey." Rose also said he appreciates how veterans Tony Black and Rick Wilson have helped him.

The 2001 Eclipse is yet another triumph for a circuit that has produced top honors for bug riders Alberto Delgado, Allen Stacy, Kent Desormeaux, Mike Luzzi, and Mark Johnston. Rose said he plans to continue to make Maryland and Delaware his circuit. "I know that the money is better in New York, but I just love it around there," he said.

Many observers believe Rose will not need his five-pound apprentice allowance to further succeed. In fact, the day after losing his bug, Rose went out and won three races on the Sunday card at Laurel Park, including the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap on longshot Lyracist.

Predictably, voting in the apprentice category was a one-sided affair, since Rose's earnings were over $2 million more than those for the next highest of the three other finalists, Julian Pimentel. The other finalists were Kris Prather and Hector Rosario Jr.