04/15/2005 11:00PM

Second-flight riders doing well, too


OLDSMAR, Fla. - While the primary focus for leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs is on the battle between Jesus Castanon and Terry Houghton, riders in the second flight of the standings - Winston Thompson, Jose Lezcano, and Tommy Pompell - are also having standout meetings.

Thompson, in his second season here, has picked up business steadily, and on Sunday the Jamaica native scored a riding triple for the fourth time at the current meeting, giving him 52 winners for the meet. Thompson, who rides at Suffolk Downs in the summer, has his own distinctive riding style, riding more straight-legged than most of his fellow riders, but gets a lot of run out of his mounts with strong, vigorous finishes.

Lezcano, in his first season here, takes a different approach with his mounts. He is a patient rider, saving horsepower while allowing the race and pace scenarios to play out. His style seems to work best on the turf, as time and time again he has tucked his mounts in behind the leaders and closed in the lane with a fresh runner. Lezcano's wait-and-see approach backfires occasionally when room between rivals or along the rail fails to materialize, but quite often Lezcano's mounts have been able to outkick rivals who have looped wide or had raced uncovered in the early stages.

Lezcano, who is likely heading to New Jersey this summer to ride at Monmouth, had 53 winners coming into Saturday's program.

Pompell first hooked up with trainer Don Rice at Ellis Park several seasons back. When Rice's first-call rider, Paula Bacon, retired because of nagging back problems, Pompell became the regular rider for Rice, who has led the trainer standings six times here. While there is no question Rice is Pompell's main man, Pompell has steadily picked up business with other stables in recent years.

He is adept at putting horse in races early, handles speed runners well, and is also a strong finisher. He had 49 winners going into Saturday's card.

As for the battle at the top, Houghton caught a break when the stewards decided not to suspend him for his ride aboard Santa Stella in last Tuesday's 10th race. The stewards disqualified his mount after Santa Stella drifted in during the final furlong of that sprint.

Joe Judice, whose mount, Campaign, was disqualified from third and placed fourth in the eighth race on the same program, was also spared a suspension.

Coming into Saturday's program, Castanon had 82 wins to 81 for Houghton.

R Lady Joy third in Oaklawn's Fantasy

Trainer Kirk Ziadie, who is winning at a rate of better than 40 percent at this meeting, took Florida Oaks winner R Lady Joy to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy Stakes on Friday, and came away with a third-place finish behind winner Round Pond.

R Lady Joy finished a length back of runner-up Rugula in the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy.