06/22/2004 11:00PM

Torbit can ride your horse or paint it


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - Apprentice jockey Renee Torbit rode her first career double last Friday night at Fairmount Park aboard two scrappy 4-year-olds, Sankofa Two and Backside Bully, who paid $10.20 and $23.20, respectively.

Torbit's double came on the heels of a Thursday night victory aboard Doubledigitdomedog, a spirited $4,000 claiming horse.

"That horse has a sense of humor to go with his name," said Torbit, 25, who has ridden for two years, has 31 career wins, and is 14 victories away from shedding her apprentice allowance. "He's cocky. He thinks he's a stakes horse."

Torbit has struggled to secure mounts and much notice at Fairmount - she also rides at Delta Downs and Woodlands - for two reasons: The long shadow cast by comeback kid Heather Irion, a local girl who has recovered from serious injury and ranks sixth among Fairmount jockeys this meet, and Torbit was not truly worthy.

But while she struggled to get more than one mount per night at this meet last year, she is now riding least three races per card, partly because of her improvement in the saddle and also because of the salesmanship of her talents by agent Susan Collazo, wife of veteran jockey Jorge Collazo Sr.

While acclaim has been slow to come to Torbit, who grew up in Salem, Mo., her artistic skills have not flown under the radar. She has a backlog of contracts to paint portraits of prize Thoroughbreds and horse country landscapes for clients at Delta Downs and Fairmount.

"I've got some stuff to ship back to Louisiana," Torbit said. "I'm way behind."

If Torbit continues to get quality mounts in her quest for full-jockey status, it could force her to choose between between painting or riding - a dilemma she would surely welcome.

Through Tuesday, Torbit had eight wins for the meet, a total equaled by top jockey Ramsey Zimmerman on Saturday night and Tuesday afternoon alone, when he rode four winners on each card. Zimmerman has 109 wins in 346 starts counting a win on Keeneland shipper Valida in last Saturday's Ruffian Stakes.