08/31/2004 11:00PM

Zimmerman says he's staying put

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COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - When Fairmount Park jockey Ramsey Zimmerman dropped veteran agent Mark Cooper a month ago in favor of Jim McComas, rumors were aflutter that Zimmerman was eyeing potentially more lucrative mounts at classier tracks. A win and a third in four starts two weeks ago at Calder aboard Kirk Ziadie-trained mounts did nothing to silence such chatter.

Not so fast, said Zimmerman. The south Florida mounts were purely coincidental, he said, and Fairmount needn't fear an escape attempt by its most prolific rider.

"[Ziadie] wants me to come down there and ride, but I like my situation here," said Zimmerman, the meet's leader who is also ranked fifth nationally in wins, with 208 through Aug. 30. "I took a vacation in Florida two weeks ago to freshen up before [the fall meet at] Hoosier. It turned out that [Ziadie] put me on six horses on the first day of my vacation. So I had a day at Calder and ended up riding four of them."

Ziadie also had Zimmerman listed aboard the morning-line favorite, Whenthedoveflies, in a $40,000 stakes this past Sunday at Calder. But by that time, Zimmerman had returned home. Whenthedoveflies ended up a late scratch from the field.

Perhaps even more curious, though, was Zimmerman's severance of ties with Cooper. The relationship seemed to be going swimmingly, with Cooper keeping Zimmerman on the horses of top trainer Ralph Martinez. But according to Zimmerman, Cooper was intent on representing Zimmerman at the Hoosier Park meet (which began Sept. 2) as well, while Zimmerman wanted to stick with McComas, who served as his Indiana agent late last year.

"My plan from the beginning was to take Jim to Hoosier," said Zimmerman. "And [Cooper] didn't want to work with that plan. It was nothing personal; I just like my chances with [McComas] at Hoosier better."

Cooper declined to comment on the situation.

* Eleven 2-year-old males are nominated for the six-furlong, $25,000 Buckpasser Stakes scheduled for Labor Day afternoon.