07/20/2007 12:00AM

Talamo loses apprentice status

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DEL MAR, Calif. - As of Sunday, jockey Joe Talamo is no longer a rookie.

The 17-year-old riding sensation lost his five-pound apprentice claim Saturday and will ride as a journeyman for the first time at Del Mar on Sunday.

Of course, Talamo is still the young man who won the riding title at Fair Grounds last winter, nearly won the riding title at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting this year, and scored two Grade 1 victories on the same program earlier this month. He is just no longer an apprentice.

Talamo had hoped to retain his apprentice status for 18 additional days, but recently lost an appeal with Louisiana racing officials for an extension. Talamo, who was born and raised in Louisiana, missed 18 days of racing last November because of school work.

The extension was denied, according to his agent, Ron Ebanks. Del Mar stewards said they would not get involved with the matter.

Talamo said Thursday that he was not discouraged by the ruling and was anxious to start as a journeyman.

"I'm excited," he said. "It's going to come sooner or later. I don't think it will be a problem. It will be a factor for trainers whether they want to give me a chance."

The ruling angered Ebanks, who was upset that Louisiana officials did not grant the jockey leniency for missing time to complete school work.

"They punished him for taking time to be educated," Ebanks said. "They said it didn't stop him from being able to ride."

Del Mar steward Scott Chaney said the issue was best left to Louisiana officials. "We didn't think we were the appropriate body," he said. "It sounds like he's in a procedural bind."

Talamo will have plenty of opportunities to make an impression as a journeyman on Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday's nine-race card, he rides the seven overnight races, but does not have mounts in the Fleet Treat Stakes or Eddie Read Handicap. Monday, he rides all eight races, including top contender Add Heat in the $63,000 allowance race that headlines the program.

Talamo had a career-best day at Hollywood Park on July 7, winning the Vanity Handicap with Nashoba's Key and the Triple Bend Handicap with Bilo.

Gerson-Miller team starts perfect

Talamo had his first winner of the Del Mar meeting in Thursday's eighth race, aboard the maiden claimer Mix.

For trainer Peter Miller, it was his fourth winner from five starters in the first two days of the meeting. All of the Miller-trained winners are owned by the Gerson Racing syndicate, which is perfect with four runners in the early days of the meeting.

Wednesday, the Gerson-Miller team won a maiden claimer with Run Forest Run and a starter allowance with Icanmakeitrain. On Thursday, they won a maiden claimer for 2-year-old fillies with Princess Susan M and the eighth with Mix.

Miller credited his success to "good luck."

"The horses came into the meet very well," he said. "I had some good spots for them. When I saw the condition book, I got excited when I saw some of those spots."

While the Miller-Gerson team has won modest races, Miller said they have stakes runners to start in the next few weeks.

Set Play, who finished third in the Landaluce Stakes on June 30, is being pointed for the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Aug. 8. Whatever Whenever, third in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 4, will start in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 12. Set Play and Whatever Whenever are owned by Gerson Racing.

Wednesday, Miller starts Bear Creek in the $125,000 Graduation Stakes for statebred 2-year-olds.

Bear Creek was recently purchased by Gary and Cecil Barber following a win in a $25,000 claiming race at Pleasanton on June 28.

Chinese Dragon retired

Chinese Dragon, the winner of 7 of 13 starts and $513,492, has been retired because of injury, trainer Bob Hess Jr. said.

Chinese Dragon won five stakes in his career, the most prominent of which was the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields on April 28.

He was found to have a hairline fracture of a sesamoid after a recent workout, Hess said.

While no plans have been finalized, Hess is hoping that the 5-year-old Chinese Dragon can be sold as a stallion prospect.

CHRB okays horse retirement fund

The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday gave its approval for a small portion of purses to be earmarked for a horse retirement program sanctioned by the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Under the proposal, 0.3 percent of purses would be dedicated to the formation of the California Retirement Management Account. The fund would be administered by the TOC. The proposal must go through a 45-day public comment period and be voted upon again by the board later this year. The deduction would be voluntary to horse owners.