08/09/2005 11:00PM

In tough jockey colony, a successful longshot

Chantal Sutherland's five wins so far at Saratoga, all at double-digit mutuels, surpassed her 4-for-83 total at Belmont.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Chantal Sutherland is getting noticed for more than her good looks this summer at Saratoga.

A two-time Sovereign Award winner as Canada's leading apprentice, Sutherland has demonstrated the ability to compete with the best journeymen riders in the country at Saratoga. Through the first two weeks of the meet, Sutherland has 5 wins from 19 mounts. Only six riders have more wins, and those riders have at least twice as many mounts.

All of Sutherland's winners have paid double-digit mutuels, including Stock Tip ($110), one of her three turf winners. Sutherland won two races on Sunday and guided her only mount Monday, World Series, to a front-running score.

Saturday, Sutherland will ride top contender Smokume for Allen Jerkens in the Grade 2, $200,000 Vanderbilt Handicap. Sutherland is 3 for 4 on Smokume, including a victory in last month's Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont. Sutherland's success has caught the eye of many top trainers, including Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, who has given her the mount on longshot Vangelis in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational.

"She sits still," said Frankel, who will also run King's Drama in the Sword Dancer. "She's quiet on a horse. I think that's all [Vangelis] needs."

Sutherland's five wins surpassed her total at Belmont, where she was 4 for 83. She has also surpassed her own modest expectations when she declined an agent's invitation to ride at Del Mar to come here. Sutherland, who began riding in the United States this winter at Gulfstream, chose Saratoga because she was working a few horses she thought could win here. She also helped to lay the groundwork for the Belmont fall meet.

"I thought I might have an okay meet at Saratoga," said Sutherland, 29. "I had a couple of horses I liked.

I didn't know I'd explode this well."

Neither did her agent, the Hall of Fame jockey Jorge Velasquez, who took on Sutherland as a client in April when she came to New York. Velasquez admitted to being reluctant at first to take the book of a female jockey, but was quickly won over by Sutherland's work ethic.

"She's the only rider that I have worked for that I don't have to call in the morning," Velasquez said. "She's out in the morning; she's on four or five horses every morning. She's the complete package: She's got the ability, she's got a nice personality, she's a hard-working girl, and she's beautiful."

Growing up in Manitoba, where her father, Hugh, owned horses, Sutherland fell in love with racing at a young age. Her father didn't want her to go into racing. Sutherland galloped horses during the summers of her years attending York University in Toronto, where she double-majored in mass communications and psychology.

"The track for me has been a great place to mature," Sutherland said.

In 2000, Sutherland came to the U.S. and galloped horses for trainer Scotty Schulhofer at Gulfstream Park. That summer she came to Saratoga, where she galloped for Schulhofer and worked with Shane Sellers to hone her skills. She began riding at Woodbine later that year.

"When she first got on horses I was very impressed with her," said Randy Schulhofer, who served as an assistant to his father before going out on his own. "She can get a horse to relax."

Sutherland's two rides on Sunday showed her versatility. While Sutherland guided Truer Than True to a front-running score, jockey Eibar Coa, aboard Eslan, tried to carry her out turning for home. Sutherland held her ground and never wavered from her path.

"A great rider can ride tight, tight without touching, so I've been practicing to ride as close as I can without touching somebody," said Sutherland, who has been going over videos with another Hall of Fame jockey, Angel Cordero. "I know that when [Coa] came out, he can bump me all he wants. As long as I hold my position I can't get in trouble."

Sutherland has been conscientious about saving ground on the turf, something she did brilliantly aboard Super Nationals on Sunday. When the rail opened up, she shot her horse through and got the job done at $24.20.

"I study my [past performances] when I get to the jocks' room or I'll do them at night, and I'll draw a diagram of where I think the speed and all the position of where the horses will be," Sutherland said. "I highlight in colored marker my number wherever I fall in and I know who's going to go to the fence. From studying my riders here, I know who might come off the fence and who might not."

With Sutherland's good looks, she could just as easily be donning fashion wear as jockey silks. Have her looks ever been an issue in getting mounts? She says no. A website had quoted Sutherland as saying in an interview that "harassment was rampant" in Canada, but she denied making the comment.

"Everyone in Canada was really classy and professional with me," Sutherland said. "I've never had anybody treat me like anything other than a lady. I think I hold myself with respect, and that's how I'm approached by people, especially in New York."

Sutherland has been approached by Vogue magazine for a photo shoot about athletes in the spring. Men's magazines FHM and Maxim have also contacted her about provocative photo shoots, but she has thus far declined.

"In this industry, I think it'd be a hit-or-miss thing, and I'd be afraid to do something like that," Sutherland said.

Sutherland isn't sure how many years she will ride. Sutherland said she hopes for a career in sports media someday.

"My goal would be to do well here, to be significant," Sutherland said.

"I always wanted to make my dad proud of me, and to let him know I did it on my own."