11/27/2004 12:00AM

Thompson credits agent for riding title

Email

EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Jockey Winston Thompson will prove the age-old sports axiom that it is better to have momentum at the end of a season than the beginning when he wraps up his second career riding title at Suffolk Downs on Monday.

Surfing a wave of 35 wins since the start of November, including four four-win days, Thompson flew past Joe Hampshire, the winner of the last eight riding titles here, last Tuesday to take the lead in the standings. Through Friday, Thompson had ridden 151 winners for the season, eight more than Hampshire.

It's the second time Thompson, a 40-year-old native of Jamaica, will finish as Suffolk's leading rider. He captured the 1995 fall meet title with 39 winners.

Thompson has always been near the top of the standings, but it has never been an easy task to useat Hampshire or, before him, Rudy Baez at this track. Hampshire and Baez have dominated since Suffolk reopened in 1992, accounting for 20 titles in the last the 25 meets .

Thompson's '95 fall meet title came while Baez was sidelined with an injury. He dueled with Hampshire throughout that short season. When Baez was paralyzed in a race at Rockingham Park in 1999, it was Hampshire who became the boss in the jockeys' room.

Thompson's secret to beating Hampshire this time may have been his decision to hire Hampshire's former agent, Max Hall.

"All the credit has to go to Max," said Thompson after winning four races last Wednesday. "I would win my share, but without him I wouldn't win nearly as many as I have."

Hall is the kingmaker in New England. Among his leading jockeys have been Stewart Elliott, Carl Gambardella, Aaron Gryder, Norberto Arroyo, and Hampshire.

"It's a big thrill, but really Winston deserves this," said Hall. "He has worked hard the whole meet. It's a thrill every time for me, but you've got to give the credit to the guys I've worked for. I'm just a salesman, and like a salesman you've got to have the product. If it wasn't for the guys I've worked for, no one would even know my name."

Don't expect Hampshire to just fade away. His business cooled off just as Thompson's got hot, but he was on top of the colony for most of the year until many of his clients began to lay up their best stock. He stayed on top while booking his own mounts without an agent. Hampshire will head to his hometown track of Philadelphia Park for the winter. Thompson and Hall will spend the off-season at Tampa Bay Downs.

The training championship has been no contest for the past few months, but like the jockeys' race, the usual name is not going on the trophy. John Rigatteri had saddled 91 winners through Friday, to easily secure his first title. Ron Dandy, who had won 13 of the last 15 crowns, was a distant second with 62 winners. Rigatteri trained for leading owners, Monarch Stable.

* Track superintendent Glen Kozak is the latest Suffolk employee to head to the Maryland Jockey Club to work with Lou Raffetto, the former vice president and general manager here who is now an executive at Pimlico and Laurel. Kozak will be in charge of the buildings and physical plants.