11/03/2005 1:00AM

Stein merits a look from Sovereign voters


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - By the time the season ends, Justin Stein will have posted a record number of wins by an apprentice rider in a single season at Hastings - a record that will likely stand for a long time. He has 129 wins at the meet, and last weekend blew past Dave Wilson's old record of 123 wins, set in 1994.

Stein will cruise to the riding title at Hastings as well. He has a 32-win lead over Pedro Alvarado, who has been the leading rider for three straight years. Stein will likely establish a record for the most money won in a year. His mounts have earned $2,193,673. The record, set by Alvarado last year, is $2,216,447. Stein also leads all Canadian riders with an impressive 24 percent win rate.

Stein, 25, said he really didn't think he would have this type of season.

"It has been a very exciting year and it has exceeded all of my expectations by far," he said. "I'm very grateful for all that's happened."

Stein is a quick study. Although his father and grandfather were both jockeys, he has only been at the track for a couple of years, and he rode his first race last fall.

"I had prior experience with other types of horses, but not with racehorses," he said. "I really just started galloping horses at the track last year."

By his own admission, Stein had a lot to learn about riding when he began the year. He almost went to Ontario to ride at Woodbine last spring, but because of his inexperience, he decided to stay in Vancouver. He literally had his bags packed before he changed his mind. One of the reasons he stayed in Vancouver was fellow apprentice Emma Wilson.

"At the time I was really hesitant to go," he said. "She was the hot bug back there, and while there were a lot of people encouraging me to go to Woodbine, I thought it didn't make sense to go where they already had an apprentice that was doing so well. I also knew I didn't look nearly as good as she did back then."

Stein's decision to stay at Hastings probably cost him any chance at winning the Sovereign Award for the top apprentice rider in Canada. In politics, and just about everything else in Canada, if you win in Ontario, you win. Nevertheless, based on the two jockeys' statistics, Stein at least deserves serious consideration.

Wilson has more wins than Stein, 147-130, but percentage-wise, Stein has a 24 percent win rate to Wilson's 16 percent.

Another number that sticks out is the two riders' records in stakes races. Both have had 35 stakes mounts, but Stein has won seven races while Wilson has just one win in an added-money event. Three of Stein's wins were in graded stakes.

These numbers are not meant to diminish Wilson's accomplishments. After all, she is competing in a much deeper jockey colony, and anyone who plays Woodbine on a regular basis knows that horses she rides usually move up. But Stein's numbers are impressive, and he will certainly get the lion's share of the votes in this neck of the woods.

Stein doesn't have any regrets about staying in Vancouver. Although there's no question he could make a lot more money riding at Woodbine, he plans to stay at Hastings for the foreseeable future.

"I've moved around too much in my life and I've finally found a place where I want to stay," he said. "I've made a lot of friends here, I have a young family, and I just bought a house. I'm not planning on going anywhere for a while."

Stein was referring to his wife, Renee, and their eight-month-old son, Owen, who are both regulars in the winner's circle at Hastings.

Vancouver trainers are pleased to hear he's staying, particularly Harold Barroby. Stein has won 15 races for Barroby, more than he has for any other trainer at the meet. Barroby also had a lot to do with Stein's development. His son, Trapper Barroby, is Stein's agent, and Barroby rode Stein on a lot of horses when he began his career.

"He finished second on a lot of my horses that he probably should have won with when he first started," said Barroby. "He's so smart, though, and that's why he has become such a good rider in such a short time. Now I have a hard time getting Trapper to give me a call."

Stein plans on staying busy when the season concludes on Nov. 27. He won't be riding, though.

"I spent a year learning how to cook, so I'm planning to work in a restaurant," he said.

Cooking doesn't pay quite as much as riding, though, and he will be back at Hastings full time next spring.

"Put it this way: When Monashee won the Oaks, I made more money in one day than I would in three months as a cook," Stein said. "I think I will to stick to riding."

VanOverschot suspended indefinitely

Robert VanOverschot, one of the top stakes-winning trainers at Hastings over the past several years, has been suspended for failing to provide a urine sample to the stewards.

Not providing a sample is considered a positive test. Since this was VanOverschot's second positive within a 24-month period, he has to complete a drug-abuse program acceptable to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of British Columbia before being reinstated.