It looks as if the apprentice champion won't be coming from Maryland this year.
In fact, he won't be coming from anywhere.
Because for the first time in Eclipse Award history, he is likely to be a she.
Gwen Jocson just wrapped up an Eclipse-type apprenticeship at Philadelphia Park. Jocson, 25, won 273 races before she lost her "bug," or the weight allowance that apprentices are allowed.
In the 20-year history of the Eclipse Awards, no female trainer or jockey -- including apprentices or Julie Krone -- has ever won. Maryland "bugboys" in particular have been dominant in recent years, with four of the last five apprentice champions -- Allen Stacy, Kent Desormeaux, Mike Luzzi and Mark Johnston -- coming from Maryland.
Two Maryland bugs, Charlie Fenwick III and Tim Peterson, are having solid years, but Jocson's numbers are far superior. Mickey Walls, second behind Jocson in victories, has won more purse money while riding in Canada on a tougher circuit than Philadelphia, but Walls has less recognition simply because he works so far from most Eclipse voters.
So, as things stand, Jocson could be a champion when votes are cast in early January.
"It will be great if I win," she said, "not only to become the first woman to do it, but just for the recognition as one of the best in your profession."
The latest hot item on the racetrack rumor mill has trainer Dick Dutrow returning to Maryland.
Dutrow, a dominant trainer on the Maryland circuit in the 1970s and early 1980s, has enjoyed success in New York since moving there in 1985, although he has not been much of a factor there in recent months.
Thursday, Dutrow said by telephone: "Will I ever come back, and do I look forward to coming back someday? Maybe.
"Rumors. I've heard them, too, but that's all they are right now -- rumors."
Maryland racing has a rarity in its jockey quarters -- a father and his two sons, all actively riding.
Alberto Ramos, a 53-year-old journeyman, has ridden in several races against either Alberto Delgado, 27, or Gilberto Delgado, 25. Ramos is their father.
"It is kind of weird," said Alberto Delgado. "But when I'm out there, I have to do my job. If I can shut him off or he can shut me off, and that's what it takes to win the race, then that's what will happen."
Trainer Leon Blusiewicz is giving Tong Po a rest after the colt took a second straight drubbing in the Molson Million last Sunday.
"I don't know what's next," Blusiewicz said. "He bled real bad in the Molson. I'm going to give him some time off."
To Blusiewicz, and to many fans, Tong Po has been a major disappointment since an eight-length romp in Pimlico Race Course's Tesio Stakes in March. Before the Molson, the colt was
badly beaten in the Travers Stakes.
The biggest night of the year for the Charles Town Races is set for Friday with the West Virginia Breeders Classics.
It will be the fifth year for the program, which is modeled after the Maryland Million. Friday's nine-race program includes six classics worth $335,000.
Reminder: The Breeders' Cup Pick-Seven is going to be a national pool this year. That means millions will be bet into the pool from tracks throughout the country, including Laurel Race Course, when the Breeders' Cup is run at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2.
D8 A huge -- not big, huge -- bonanza is in the offing.
Racing fans can get a no-frills view of today's Super Derby from Louisiana Downs. ESPN has given the race a five-minute slot, from 5:30-5:35 p.m., during which the race will be shown .
If you want all the Super Derby trimmings, a delayed one-hour broadcast is on ESPN tomorrow at 9 p.m.