10/16/2002 12:00AM

Warren strikes pose in SI


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Jockey Ron Warren Jr. stands 5-foot-4, but he has gained stature in his neighborhood.

Warren was pictured in the Oct. 14 edition of Sports Illustrated along with 71 other athletes who will appear in a soon-to-be-published book, "Athlete," by photographer Howard Schatz.

"My wife's friends don't know much about racing, but this got them interested," Warren said of his photo. "My son's friends were really excited about it."

The 38-year-old Warren, a resident of nearby Burlingame, Calif., is a perennial top 10 rider on the northern California circuit.

Warren began riding in 1982. He ranks third among local riders with 2,926 career victories, trailing only Russell Baze and Roberto Gonzalez.

The actual photo shoot was nearly two years ago at Bay Meadows, and Warren said he was asked to write an essay about being a jockey. The other athletes - male and female from a wide variety of sports - were also asked to write essays.

Among the better known athletes in the Sports Illustrated photo spread are Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner, Lisa Leslie of the WNBA, figure skater Tara Lipinski, Alonzo Mourning of the NBA, and Terrell Owens of the NFL. Warren is the only jockey pictured.

Warren is going to Los Angeles next Friday for a promotional event for the newly published book.

"It was fun," he said of the shoot, which lasted nearly two hours.

The picture of Warren in Sports Illustrated simply shows him standing, left hand on hip with his whip in his other hand. He's wearing his jockey's helmet, shorts, and athletic shoes.

He doesn't know what pictures will appear in the book, but he said Schatz liked his idea of shooting him with a horse.

"We did the shoot here [Bay Meadows] on a dark day," he said.

"It was my idea to do it with a horse so we called [trainer] Brent Sumja's barn. They had a nice horse that had been injured and was about to leave for the farm. He was really calmed down so we used him."

* Miss Blue Bayou, who has five wins, a second, and a third in nine starts at Bay Meadows, looms the one to beat in Friday's Bay Meadows feature, a six-furlong allowance race for fillies and mares. She won a $20,000 claimer here Sept. 6 and was second behind Comedy Class in an allowance race on Sept. 27.

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