12/27/2008 12:00AM

As usual, newcomers are making impact


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Every year you can be sure of one thing: There will be new faces on the scene at Tampa Bay Downs. The lure of warm weather and a safe racing strip bring trainers and jockeys from all over the country. And every year there will be tales of those who came with high hopes only to leave town long before the meeting is done when their stables and runners didn't live up to expectations.

While there are few surprises at the top of the jockey standings after the opening seven days of the meeting - with Daniel Centeno, Rosemary Homeister Jr. and Luis Gonzalez fighting for the lead - there are some newcomers who have made their presence felt.

Pascacio Lopez has shown a world of talent since the meet began, but has also been a bit erratic and recently was given a seven-day suspension here. He came here after being barred from riding at Calder Race Course last month by track owner Churchill Downs Inc. Lopez had accumulated 65 days' worth of suspensions there. The ban is scheduled to end after the final day of the Calder meet, which comes on Friday, and Lopez presumably will make arrangements with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to serve some of those days before he is able to ride at Gulfstream, which opens next Saturday.

Juan Leyva, who also came up from south Florida, has impressed many with his patient and fluid style. Leyva, who rode for a time in Arizona and on the West Coast before coming back to Florida at the urging of trainer Bill Kaplan, rode Storm in May for Kaplan in the 2007 Kentucky Derby. Leyva won three races on Friday's program, which raised his win total for the meeting to six. One of those victories came aboard Zip Trick, a City Zip filly who blew to the front leaving the second turn of a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance and drew off like a good horse to win by seven lengths. Zip Trick is eligible for races on Florida Cup Day here April 4.

Phil Teator won a race on Friday's program, bringing his win total to the meeting to four, and he has been on a lot of live mounts of late. Teator was co-winner of the Eclipse Award for apprentice jockey in 1997 with Roberto Rosado.

James Lopez, who came back back from a two-year absence this summer at Colonial Downs, has looked good as well this meeting and is riding for some good stables.

An interesting newcomer is Lucie Herkova, a native of the Czech Republic who rode in several countries in Europe before coming to the U.S. to try her luck.

On the trainers' side, several new outfits have come to town, topped by Jeff Radosevich, one of the leaders in Ohio year in and year out. Radosevich has horses at several tracks, and his runners here have looked good.

Earl Begley Jr. can't really be counted as a first-timer here as he raced horses at Tampa several years ago. He has returned with what shapes up as a solid outfit. He was very impressive improving on claimed runners and horses he purchased privately when he raced here previously.