01/07/2003 12:00AM

Young rider seeks to stay undefeated


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It didn't take apprentice Shannon Uske long to win the first race of her career, just one mount and a minute and five seconds - the time it took Lilah to run 5 1/2 furlongs.

It may not take Uske much longer to win her second race, either, perhaps all of about one minute and 11 seconds, or the time it should take her second career mount, Lilah again, to run six furlongs in Thursday's $36,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Uske launched her riding career by guiding Lilah to a 2 1/4-length victory over first-level optional claiming foes at Calder on Dec. 31. A 16-year-old New York native, Uske rode Lilah to victory for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who has launched many jockey careers over the years.

"I think Shannon was the 15th or 16th rider who rode their first race for me," said Jerkens. "And she's either the third or fourth who won with their first mount."

Lilah, 6, earned a career high 91 Beyer Speed Figure in her last race, far and away the highest recent number earned by any of the seven fillies and mares in Thursday's feature.

"I don't think the race took much out of her, said Jerkens. "She didn't have to run very hard to win.

"This race will be a lot tougher for her than the last one. For Shannon, too, since she'll be breaking from the inside this time instead of being in the clear on the outside."

Lilah is likely to go off the favorite for the second straight time on Thursday, and Uske is more worried about disappointing her backers than actually riding in only her second race.

"I was nervous in the warm-up for my first race, but once I got into the gate that went away," said Uske. "I was more nervous when the pony rider told me we were the favorite. I didn't want all those people to be mad at me if we didn't win and they lost all their money."

Lilah figures to get a good trip Thursday behind the speed of And That's My Story and Storm Dancer. And That's My Story comes off a 1 3/4-length first-level allowance victory in her 3-year-old finale and may prove the one to catch.

Stretch-runner Dazzling Rubies, who also closed out her 2002 campaign with a victory, while earning a career-best 83 Beyer, should have the best closing kick in the field. The others in the race are Mom's Appeal, Scamp Along, and Best Prize.

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