01/27/2006 12:00AM

Wilson enjoys magical year in saddle


As a 24-year-old female rider who graduated from college in her native Canada, Emma-Jayne Wilson brought different credentials to her job as an apprentice jockey than most of her peers.

But now her credentials include these jaw-dropping figures from 2005: 180 wins and a North American-leading $6.3 million in purse earnings among apprentice jockeys. As the leader of an extraordinary contingent of apprentices in Canada, Wilson won the Woodbine jockey title, riding more winners than highly decorated veterans such as Todd Kabel and Patrick Husbands.

"When I was in college, I read the fourth Harry Potter book in the series," Wilson said last fall. "I remember thinking, 'Why can't all these magical things happen to me?' Then the movie version came out this year, and when I saw it the other day, I realized that I'm actually living the dream that I had at that earlier point in my life."

Only one woman had earned the Eclipse as outstanding apprentice rider in the previous 34 years of the award - Rosemary Homeister Jr. in 1992. Wilson also became the first Canadian to win the award for apprentice since Neil Poznansky in 1996.

Although Wilson was riding show horses by age 9, she was taught by her parents to "keep all options open," she said. "That's why I didn't go straight to the racetrack when I was 15," opting for college instead.

At the Eclipse dinner Monday night in Beverly Hills, Wilson thanked the Canadian horsemen who had helped her career along and the horses for being "the ones who carried me here."

Wilson was honored late last year with the 2005 Sovereign Award as the outstanding apprentice jockey in Canada. She is working as an exercise rider for the Canadian powerhouse stable Sam-Son Farms in south Florida and plans to return to race-riding at Woodbine this spring.