09/21/2003 11:00PM

Two apprentice riders each celebrate first victory of career


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Apprentice jockeys Alex Bisono and Juan Avila got their first riding victories on back-to-back days Friday and Saturday at Bay Meadows, and Bisono has a chance to notch victory No. 2 in Wednesday's feature race.

Bisono, whose brothers Caesar and John are also riders, can tack 102 pounds and is listed to ride Stormy Zone at 105 pounds in the seventh race. Stormy Zone will be getting 10-12 pounds from his six rivals in the one-mile race for $25,000 claimers.

Stormy Zone won three straight while moving up the class ladder from a $6,250 claiming tag. He was second in an allowance race on the turf after his three victories but finished ninth in a very tough allowance race on the dirt last time after setting the pace through the opening half-mile. He figures to be in front again early, and the weight break could prove important.

Bisono, 19, has wanted to be a jockey since he was 5. In addition to his two brothers, he has an uncle who is a rider.

A native of New York, Bisono went to a jockey school in Puerto Rico. Bisono came to northern California last December because his brother Caesar was riding here - "He could help me out," Alex Bisono said.

"I was introduced to [trainer] Ed Moger Jr. and started galloping for him. I only took out my jockey's license two weeks ago when I felt confident and comfortable on horses.

"It was important not to do it too soon for many reasons. I got to polish my skills by galloping, and galloping horses is a great way to meet trainers. They get to see you work."

Bisono's first victory came in his eighth race, aboard Ole Cheryl. When favored Non Sibi seemed content to stalk, Bisono went for the lead with Ole Cheryl and she was never challenged, winning the six-furlong race by three lengths.

Avila, 27, was in the shower getting ready to go home after riding Brainwash in the fourth race when he was asked to ride Marla Gold. Emmanuel Mendez took ill before the race, and no other jockey was willing to ride the 2-year-old filly.

Trailing early, Marla Gold unleashed a strong move along the rail to score a 60-1 upset, giving Avila his first victory in his 29th career mount.

Avila, a native of Mexico City, has spent two years in northern California working as an exercise rider with his father, Miguel, primarily for Bill Mahorney and Sherrie Monroe. He got a late start as a rider after two major accidents while galloping horses.

Salesmanship pays off for Duran

Jockey Francisco Duran took advantage of an invitation to last year's Eclipse Awards dinner to get the mount on Ihla Grande, who won Saturday's Hillsborough Handicap.

Duran, one of three finalists for the apprentice jockey award, introduced himself to trainer Paulo Lobo, who was accepting an Eclipse for 3-year-old filly Farda Amiga.

"I introduced myself to him and told him who I was," Duran said. "I told him if there was anything I could do to help him in northern California I would be happy to."

* Decarchy and Irish Warrior, the highweights at 121 and 120 pounds, respectively, are listed as possible entrants for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap. Eighteen were nominated for the 1 1/8-mile turf race, including Ninebanks, winner of the California Turf Championship here on Labor Day.