01/05/2007 12:00AM

Two riders filled a void


When jockey Julien Leparoux decided to ride at Turfway Park through the winter, rather than at a higher-profile track like Santa Anita, he was largely expected to dominate the rider standings, as he had in the previous two meets there. But West Coast riding engagements, a suspension for a riding infraction, and vacation to his native France have resulted in Leparoux riding sparingly at Turfway.

Two riders have taken full advantage of the absence: Miguel Mena and Alonso Quinonez, who are both represented by agent Steve Elzey. Mena topped the standings with 42 victories during the holiday meet, which concluded Dec. 31. Heading into Friday evening's card, Quinonez led the winter-spring meet standings with six victories after finishing second, with 30 wins, during the holiday season.

Leparoux finished in a tie for 13th during the holiday meet, recording seven victories. He rode in 33 races, compared with 200 for Mena and 213 for Quinonez.

Through Thursday night's races, Leparoux is 0 for 10 at the meet, having ridden the first two nights of racing this week. Four of those mounts ran second.

He will be more active at Turfway in the coming weeks than he was during the holiday meet. Steve Bass, agent for Leparoux, said he anticipates Leparoux being away from Turfway just once this month after missing much of December at Turfway. During the holiday meet, Leparoux rode five of 24 full cards at Turfway. He had a single mount on another card before the track canceled because of a power outage.

His last win at Turfway came Dec. 15, his last day riding there before returning to the saddle at Turfway on Wednesday night. From Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, he won five races in California while making periodic trips to Hollywood Park and Santa Anita to ride. Among those victories was a win aboard Grande Melody in the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap Dec. 18.

With Leparoux gone for much of holiday meet, Mena and Quinonez took advantage.

Mena, 19, came four wins short of matching Bejarano's 2003 record for most wins during a holiday meet (46), despite being a relative newcomer to the area. He didn't begin riding in Kentucky until the summer after beginning his career in Florida and Illinois.

Quinonez, 23, is also riding high. After winning five races at the Churchill Downs fall meet after starting his career at Louisiana Downs, he has become a hot apprentice this winter - in much the same way that Bejarano and Leparoux established themselves on this circuit.

Mena and Quinonez are having success far from where they grew up, in Peru and Mexico, respectively. Quinonez, the youngest brother of Midwest-based jockeys Luis and Belen Quinonez, said he has been in America for four years.

Mena does not have the benefit of having any family in the United States, coming to this country as a 16-year-old 3 1/2 years ago. The jockey, who attended the same riding school in Peru as established riding stars Edgar Prado and Rafael Bejarano, relies on his fellow riders for support.

"It helps a lot to have them," he said. "They already know how it is."

Cat Alert looks tough

A pair of allowances head Sunday's nine-race card at Turfway, led by a $27,900 money allowance for fillies and mares at a mile.

Three stakes winners, Ella Belle, Flying Glitter, and Classical Ryder, are in the seven-horse lineup, but the mare to beat is likely Cat Alert, a 7-year-old daughter of Tabasco Cat who was graded-placed in 2005. She is untested on Polytrack but has won on turf and dirt. Quinonez rides.