06/26/2002 12:00AM

Taylor makes history with River riding title


The Turf Club meet, the first of two meets that make up the River Downs season, concluded last Saturday with jockey Larry Taylor and trainer Ron Powell leading their respective divisions for the first time.

Taylor, 38, is the first African-American to win a riding title at River Downs, and is spending his first summer in Cincinnati. He began riding Thoroughbreds in Texas and Louisiana and credits riders John Lively, Shane Sellers, Ron Ardoin, and Randy Romero for his success.

"You can learn a lot riding against guys like that," he said.

Powell has had his trainer's license for only 10 months, but has been around the sport much longer, having owned horses trained by George Leonard.

The effect of several heart attacks has forced Powell to use an electric scooter, and he is greatly aided by the help of his wife, Chris, in the care of their 33 horses.

Jockey Steve Biles finished 10th aboard Happy Acres in the second race on June 21, his first mount in nearly eight years. It's been a long road back for the 40-year-old Biles.

Among the strokes of bad luck that kept Biles out of the saddle was a brain tumor, which was successfully eradicated by surgery.

Later, Biles found himself homeless and living in a Dayton, Ky., shelter. It was during his time at the shelter that Biles became a hero by saving a 3-year-old boy from a house engulfed in flames across the street from the shelter. For his efforts, the city of Dayton declared May 5, 1999, Steve Biles Day.

Today, Biles works on the River Downs backside. His son, Justin, also works on the backside, as a full-time hotwalker.