12/08/2003 12:00AM

Shibata is Super Jockeys champ


Local rider Yoshitomi Shibata captured the World Super Jockeys Series at Hanshin racecourse in Japan over the weekend, as the two U.S. representatives, Jose Santos and Edgar Prado, failed to threaten seriously, finishing eighth and ninth.

Santos got off to a fair start in the four-race event, with two races on Saturday and two on Sunday, riding Reportage to third in the opening event. A fourth place in the final race gave him a respectable 25 points, 3 ahead of Prado.

Prado's mounts all finished in midpack or worse, with a fifth-place in the second race his best result.

Shibata, a winner of more than 1,300 races in Japan, earned first prize with 48 points, 6 ahead of an Australian, Damien Oliver.

Victor Espinoza will represent the United States in the annual International Jockeys' Championship series at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The series will be run over four races, with the 12 competing jockeys having a mount in each.

Espinoza is in Hong Kong for the mount on Sarafan in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin on Sunday. Last year, he was a top draw for the Hong Kong Jockey Club after his exploits on War Emblem, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Most of the major racing nations have a representative in the challenge, and last year's winner, Douglas Whyte, will be defending his title. A South African, he is a three-time leading jockey in Hong Kong and will represent that country in Wednesday's competition.

Other notables include Frankie Dettori, who will be riding for the United Arab Emirates. The principal rider for Godolphin, Dettori will be seeking his third victory in the event, having won it in 1999 and 2001.

Oliver, meanwhile, will be looking to put up his second bold showing in a jockeys' event in the space of a few days.