10/27/2010 3:26PM

Aces N Kings headed to Delta Jackpot

Lou Hodges Jr.
Aces N Kings, Eguard Tejera up, wins the Minstrel Stakes.

Aces N Kings has asserted himself as one of the best 2-year-olds in the Mid-South region as a winner of 5 of 6 starts, and next month he will make the leap into graded competition. Ed Dodwell, who owns the horse with his wife, Caroline, said Aces N Kings is headed for the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Nov. 20.

Dodwell said Calvin Borel will ride Aces N Kings, whose lone loss came by a head in the $80,000 Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs in his last start Sept. 25.

“We kind of rested him after the Sunday Silence, freshened him up to have him be the best he can be for the Delta Jackpot,” Dodwell said. “The best race he ran, he had 55 days between races, so we kind of keyed off of that.”

Aces N Kings had his first work back Wednesday, going a half-mile in 49.80 seconds at the Dodwells’ training center in Texas. The horse, who is trained by H.B. Johnson Jr., began his career with three straight dirt wins at Lone Star Park, including a $60,000 division of the TTA Sales Futurity.

He then moved to turf and Louisiana Downs, where he won the $50,000 Minstrel on July 5, and the $50,000 Sunny’s Halo at a mile Aug. 28, the race Dodwell considers his best to date. Aces N Kings was the odds-on favorite a month later in the Sunday Silence, but was shuffled back and came on again to finish second.

“He got into trouble at the half-mile pole,” Dodwell said. “He closed a lot of ground the last 330 yards. He was absolutely flying.”

The Dodwells have had lots of success at Delta, where they won the Jean Lafitte Futurity eight times when it was a springtime staple. Pre-entries for the Jackpot, which received a record 238 nominations, are Nov. 5. Delta plans to offer a $100,000 guaranteed pick four on Jackpot Night, with the sequence to run from races 4-7, the seventh being the Jackpot.

Retama attendance up, handle dips

Retama Park, which consolidated its Thoroughbred meet from 32 nights to 16 for 2010, experienced a surge in average daily attendance and a dip in average daily handle on its live races during the season that closed Saturday.

Retama averaged 3,702 patrons a card this meet, up 38 percent from 2009. Handle on the track’s races from all sources averaged $604,272 a card, which was off 5 percent from $637,885 in 2009. Retama reported handle on its races ontrack was up 61 percent, to an average $114,891 a night. Offtrack, another $489,381 was bet on Retama’s races nightly, down 14 percent from 2009.

“Our decision to drop Thursday nights and run a Friday and Saturday meet turned out to be the right call,” said Bryan Brown, chief executive officer of Retama. “Fans responded with enthusiasm, and our horsemen provided an excellent product.”

Brown said Retama’s meet led the nation in starters per race, with 10.5.

Karl Broberg won his first training title with 16 wins, one more than perennial leader Danny Pish. Roberto Villafan dominated the rider standings, while the leading owner title was shared three ways, by Wilma Wright, Robert Morgan Evans and Florida Prime LLC.

Borel to Arkansas Hall

Calvin Borel, who in the winter is based at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., is one of 11 athletes to be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 11. Cliff Lee, who on Wednesday was to pitch the opening game of the World Series, is also part of the class. Borel has won three of the last four Kentucky Derbies and was the regular rider on 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

◗ Zia Park will be splashed in pink on Saturday, with jockeys donning pink silks all afternoon as part of the track’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day.