Jockey on cusp of milestone victory

Published February 5, 2005

OLDSMAR - When Jill Jellison falls, she often climbs back into the elite.

She proved that in 1989 when, after a spill sidelined her six months with a broken shoulder, the Woonsocket, R.I., native captured her only riding championship at Rockingham Park. Jellison won 220 races that season, second among female riders to all-time victory leader Julie Krone.

Her persistence is showing again at Tampa Bay Downs. After missing most of last year's meet with a broken collarbone, Jellison is entering today's card one victory shy of tying Vicky Aragon-Baze for third place on the female jockey career win list at 1,769.

"To me, it's not really a big deal because I feel just winning over 1,000 races is an accomplishment," Jellison said. "But it'll be great and I'll move up a notch. I'm not going to get cocky over it; I'm way over that."

It is unlikely Jellison will challenge Krone's record of 3,546 wins or the 2,137 of Patti Cooksey. At age 41, Jellison has pondered retirement with a possible career in training.

"I like to be around horses," Jellison said. "There's a lot of work in Ocala with the buying and selling of horses all the time. I'll have to see what happens."

Jellison still rides for Bobby Raymond, the trainer who started her in the business 22 years ago. "I probably have half my wins with Bobby," said Jellison. "I owe him a lot."

The 2003-04 meet was Jellison's first at Tampa Bay Downs. It was cut short by three months when she was injured after her horse broke down on the turf course.

This year, Jellison has six wins in her first 88 starts. The win percentage of 6.8 is well below her expectations of 15 percent.

"It's tough down here," Jellison said. "You ride a lot of horses that come from up north and it takes them a while to get ready. But I love the warm weather and am looking forward to the rest of the meet."

GASPARILLA STAKES: Gotta Rush will have the No. 1 post and No. 1-ranked jockey today in the $60,000 Gasparilla Stakes. Fourteen 3-year-old fillies will go 7 furlongs on the dirt in the track's seventh stakes race. Leading rider Jesus Castanon will be aboard the Lloyd Palmer-trained Kentucky-bred.

The rest of the field in post position order: Ashley and I, Stavinsky's Gal, Sherrie Belle, Glittering Tax, Appealing Bride, Gallant Secret, Tooke Tooke, Cool Spell, Lady in Pink, Pias Moonlite, Undeniable Queen, Joyous Song and Southern Serenity. Post time is about 4:25 p.m.

THOROUGHBRED BRIEFS: Sam Cronk became the first Tampa Bay Downs trainer to win three races on a single card on two occasions. On Thursday, Cronk captured three consecutive races with Cross Keys, Run for Sam and Lost Patrol. Juan Umana was in the irons twice and Ricardo Valdes once. Cronk first won three races on a program Dec. 28, 1997. He joined Lynne Scace as the only Tampa conditioners to win three on one card this season. Second-leading rider T.D. Houghton returned to action Tuesday after serving a five-day suspension for careless riding. Tampa Bay Downs has $1 hot dogs and beverages today.

BIG EVENT AT DERBY LANE: Thirty-two of the top Grade A greyhounds will begin qualifying tonight for the 30th running of the $85,000 Sprint Classic Feb. 19. The 550-yard race is the St. Petersburg track's richest at that distance.

Dogs will be awarded points based on their order of finish in qualifying races tonight and Wednesday. The 16 dogs with the most points advance to two final qualifying races Feb. 12 and 16. Point totals for order of finish continue to accumulate for the dogs, with the top eight advancing to the Sprint Classic. The point distribution is 16 for a win, 10, 8, 6, 3, 2, 1 and 0.

All 21 kennels will be represented. Entries include Matinee Idol champion Fuzzys Cannon, Bow Cominaround, Bythewatersedge, Flying Newport, Flying Trey Boy, J's Habanero, Jr's Flashy, My Names Brosman, Pa's Wild Woody, Quibbler, Sol Omar, Wkl Buck Rogers and Uss Raceway.