01/31/2007 1:00AM

Slumping Solis seeks breakthrough


ARCADIA, Calif. - Last week, jockey Alex Solis got a call from a friend relating the latest racetrack rumor. The friend asked if Solis was about to announce his retirement after a 26-year career.

"I said, 'I didn't know I was retiring,'" Solis said Wednesday morning.

Such is the nature of Solis's current struggles at Santa Anita that rumors have started to swirl. A three-time leading rider at the Santa Anita winter meeting, Solis is off to a poor start this season, having won with just 5 of 68 mounts through Sunday. He was tied for 14th in the standings, outside of his customary top 10 position over the last two decades.

Despite the slump, Solis insists he is not discouraged and is not thinking of retiring, at least not until 2017.

"I have to remember why I ride horses," he said. "I love to do it. I want to ride another 10 years.

"Things have been a little slow, but that's part of racing. You have to do the things you do. Hopefully, my barns will pick up, and we'll get some better business."

Solis, 42, is looking toward Saturday as a possible breakthrough day. He rides Brother Derek in the $300,000 Strub Stakes, which is run over the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Santa Anita Derby, which Brother Derek won last April.

Brother Derek is in a slump as well, having lost seven consecutive starts. A winner of 6 of 15 races and $1,557,4658, Brother Derek was third in his most recent start, the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes here on Jan. 13. Solis said he was enthused by Brother Derek's five-furlong workout in 1:01.40 at Hollywood Park on Monday.

"I think he's getting back to himself," Solis said. "When I worked him, he looked much better. He looked like himself, like last year."

Brother Derek is one of Solis's top mounts this winter. He is also excited about the long-term prospects of the 3-year-old filly Valbenny and the 3-year-old colt Dilemma, both trained by Paddy Gallagher.

Later this month, Solis will ride the top sprinter Siren Lure in the San Carlos Handicap on Feb. 17. Last summer, Siren Lure won the Triple Bend and Pat O'Brien handicaps.

But on Friday, Solis has only three mounts on the eight-race program. Last Sunday, he had two mounts on a nine-race program and was finished for the day before 3 p.m., prior to the day's two stakes, including the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap.

"It's a little aggravating," he said. "I've been very fortunate to have done great for so long. Right now people aren't really riding me. You get a lot of rejections. They kind of forget about you."

Solis has lost mounts to Garrett Gomez, Victor Espinoza, and a rejuvenated David Flores, the three leading riders at the meeting. He faces further competition from Jorge Chavez and Richard Migliore, formerly fixtures in New York who have cracked the top 10.

"You've got three or four guys that are riding very well and are good riders," Solis said. "That happens."

Solis is closely allied with trainers Gallagher, Bruce Headley, Dan Hendricks, and Ron McAnally. Of those, only Gallagher is in the top 10 among trainers, and he often rides other jockeys.

"There are good times and bad times," Solis said. "You can't go and cry in the corner. I feel confident because I've got people like Headley that will start running new horses. Gallagher has a lot of horses.

"You have to stay the same, keep working hard, and looking forward to the things that you want to accomplish. It's a brand new year and it's only a month old."