Jason Lumpkins has been riding thoroughbreds for a living since 1988. He came to Canterbury Park for the first time in late April, at the urging of jockey agent Chuck Costanzo.

Canterbury's first live card was on May 3, in conjunction with Big Brown's arrival as a four-legged superstar in Louisville, Ky.

In the three weeks since then, Lumpkins has played all the golf a fellow can stand. There were only seven racing cards in the 20 days from the Canterbury opener to Friday night.

"We need to get those four-day weeks going," Lumpkins said in an interview earlier this month.

On Friday, Canterbury made the transition to four cards a week, a schedule that lasts until Labor Day. The immediate impact was not what Lumpkins hoped.

"We need more horses around here," he said Friday morning. "They say the barns will be full in a week or two, but the fields are short right now. There are a lot of good jockeys here, and it's tough to find the mounts."

Lumpkins had seven winners on 43 mounts in the seven days of Canterbury racing scattered over the previous three weeks. On Friday, he had a ride in only three of the nine races. The average field was seven horses, with only five in the allowance feature.

Lumpkins' seven victories had him third on the Canterbury list, behind Derek Bell's 10 and nine for Paul Nolan, another Costanzo client.

"My goal is to have the 1-2 jockeys here, although that isn't going to be easy with Bell, [Dean] Butler and some of the other jockeys we have," Costanzo said.

Lumpkins has won 19 riding titles in his career. Fourteen of those came at Thistledown, the track near Cleveland that annually has four meetings: Summit, Thistledown, Randall and Cranwood.

Lumpkins had 140 victories during the Thistledown meetings in 1992. For his career, on a couple of dozen tracks, he has 2,455 wins in 13,122 rides going into this weekend.

He dominated at Thistledown for eight years (1991-98) before heading for northern California. He had a successful run of several years at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows.

There are gaps in his two-decade history. How about those four missing months after you left Calder in January 1991?

"That's when I went to Saudi Arabia to ride for the Crown Prince," he said. "First, I went to Riyadh, then I rode for the prince in Dubai. The money was pretty good, and I won some races. The prince seemed happy enough."

There's also a two-month gap in 2005. "That was an injury ... worst I've ever had," he said. "My horse clipped heels with another one and I was thrown off. And when the horse went down, it landed on me. I had all the cartilage pulled away from my chest cavity. I was out for two months."

There are also more recent gaps of a month here and there. These have involved personal situations -- the illness of his father and a divorce.

Lumpkins married when he was 16 and his wife, Dawn, was 18. The couple has three children. The family moved to a 160-acre farm in rural Kentucky in 2002.

"The farm's been sold," he said. "We'll leave it at that."

Lumpkins comes from Martinsburg, W. Va. He had his first big success at Mountaineer Park, the home-state track, with 65 winners in 1989.

He was back at Mountaineer this winter and not winning at his previous rate. He was considering several options for spring and summer when Costanzo convinced him to come to Canterbury.

"In my opinion, Jason is an 'A' rider," Costanzo said. "You look at the tracks where he was won races -- Aqueduct, in California, everywhere -- and his talent is obvious."

There are Midwestern tracks, such as Prairie Meadows in Iowa and the Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., with slot machines and thus considerably higher purses.

So why would a jockey with Lumpkins' track record find himself riding here where purses are $130,000 per day rather than for $100,000 more elsewhere on the prairie?

"I was looking for fresh air, a fresh start," Lumpkins said. "I want to get my winning percentage back up where it belongs, and after we're done here, we'll see what happens.

"I'm healthy. I like this track. Only thing is, we need more horses."

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com