04/29/2006 12:00AM

Tomillo bounces back again


CHICAGO - Tom Tomillo has spent most days the last several decades at the racetrack, but Friday was different. When Tomillo showed up for the races at Hawthorne, it was his first trip back to the track after another physical ordeal, which included the amputation of his lower leg.

Tomillo, who suffers from diabetes, had serious trouble with his eyes, and was in grave condition in a New Orleans hospital a couple winters ago, but he recovered and has had two of his best years as a horse trainer. But this winter in Florida, Tomillo fell and broke a leg, and further trouble with the limb led to the amputation. Sometime soon, doctors will outfit Tomillo with a prosthesis.

Intact, however, is his spirit. Tomillo's outlook seems unchanged, and he said he intends to continue operating his large stable, composed mainly of claimers.

"Mentally and emotionally, I'm having a good enough time," Tomillo said Saturday morning. "I don't have any real problems. I'm treating it like a person would treat a new hip or something."

In fact, when the National Jockey Club meet ends Tuesday, Tomillo will be leading trainer, his stable having captured 27 races through Friday, nine more than his nearest pursuer, Wayne Catalano. In Tomillo's absence, assistant trainer Lalo Rodriguez has overseen the operation.

"My help is great, all my help," said Tomillo. "Lalo Rodriguez, he's my right-hand man. We talk every night, every day."

While the training title seems secure, the race for leading jockey suddenly has grown tight. Chris Emigh has topped the standings all meet long, but his advantage had shrunk to just four after Friday's card. With four racing days left, Emigh led Eddie Razo 50 wins to 46, although Emigh had ridden 229 horses, Razo just 192.

Apache Point finds his spot

Apache Point, quite likely the most talented entry-level allowance horse in Chicago, makes his first start since last Oct. 1 in the featured seventh race Monday at Hawthorne.

Two winters ago, Apache Point won his maiden with an eye-catching performance, and after a close second in the $250,000 Iowa Derby two starts later, Apache Point seemed poised for a strong 3-year-old season. But he finished seventh in the Round Table Stakes, lost an entry-level allowance race in September at Arlington, and wound up his year with an eighth-place finish in the Indiana Derby.

Monday, with five solid workouts showing for his latest comeback, Apache Point turns back to six furlongs for the first time since his career debut, and looks very much the horse to beat.