LAUREL -- Mike Rowland returned from his only mount at Laurel Race Course yesterday caked with mud. Isn't It Funny, a 25-1 shot, had finished eighth in the third race with Rowland aboard. For a leading rider at another track, his only consolation may have been no more mud baths for the rest of a rainy day.
"I'm used to riding nine and 10 a day," Rowland said with a sigh.
The predicament for Rowland, 28, is a familiar one for a new rider in Maryland. The riding colony is tough to break, and, unless you bring an apprentice allowance or established name, life can be a struggle.
"I know it could take a while to get going here," he said. "I understand that. I just want a chance to prove myself."
Rowland, as he tells it, is from Everywhere, USA, by way of Cleveland. At Thistledown Race Track near Cleveland, he was leading rider at each of the four meetings conducted there this year. "Only the third person in history to do that," he said.
Rowland has been the overall leading rider at Thistledown -- where purses average only about 40 percent of those in Maryland -- in three of the past four years. He won 222 races there this year, and, through Nov. 30, ranked 34th nationally in victories.
His father, Ned, once rode jumping horses in this area before becoming a harness trainer and moving west. Ned Rowland eventually became a jockey's agent, and Mike became a jockey in 1979.
"Before Cleveland, I rode mainly in Phoenix [Turf Paradise] and Canada [Assiniboia Downs]," Rowland said.
"I'd like to end up staying here. I haven't really thought about what I'll do if I don't make it. I've come in with a positive attitude, and I'll let things work out from there."
* Mike Luzzi continues to enjoy an excellent meeting at Laurel. He rode four winners yesterday, boosting his meet-leading total to 79. Rick Wilson is second with 65.
Luzzi's winners were Jolly Five in the second, Secreto's Plum in the seventh, Probably Gone in the eighth and Saratoga Triple in the ninth.
* Seven Lords goes for his 15th victory of 1990 in today's eighth race. The 5-year-old gelding, 14-for-26 this year, faces his most difficult task of the year in a $50,000 claiming price against some of the circuit's best sprinters.
According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Seven Lords has one less victory than the 1990 national leader, Jilsie's Gigalo.
* In what may be her last race, Thirty Eight Go Go is the top weight and likely favorite in the $75,000 All Brandy Handicap today.
Crowned, probable second choice, will receive Lasix for the first time. The 3-year-old filly is winless since she captured the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship last year.
* Laurel-based Jeweler's Choice, winner of two stakes in Maryland this year, is a top contender in today's $60,000-added, six-furlong Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct Race Track.