06/30/2005 11:00PM

Berry finds Texas to his liking


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Cliff Berry for years has been one of the most dominant riders in Oklahoma, and that success has carried over to Texas. With just two weeks left in the Lone Star Park meet, Berry has a commanding lead in the jockey standings, having won 70 races through Thursday night for a 12-win lead over second-leading rider Roman Chapa.

For the 42-year-old Berry, the tone of his Lone Star meet was set opening night, when he won the first race of the meet, the $50,000 Premiere Stakes, aboard Rare Cure.

"It was a good start," said Berry. "The first day, the first race, the first stakes. That doesn't hurt anything, to start off with a win in a stakes."

Berry is the all-time winningest rider at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, and with nine titles at that track he regularly teams with many of the high-percentage Oklahoma outfits now racing at Lone Star. But he is also getting support from a number of stables from Texas.

"We've teamed up more this year than ever before," said Bret Calhoun, the second-leading trainer at Lone Star. "Cliff's been kind of the go-to guy this meet for us. He's a very intelligent rider. He's very experienced, and he seems to always have a horse in the right place."

Berry and Calhoun have won together at a phenomenal 36 percent clip this meet, and among their joint wins are victories with five different 2-year-old fillies at Lone Star. Most of them are going in the Texas Stallion Stakes, said Berry.

Berry won his first career race on June 3, 1981, at Louisiana Downs, and since then has compiled 2,674 career wins.

He said he plans to take a one-week vacation with his family following the close of the Lone Star meet on July 17, then will return to ride at Remington, which opens in August.

'Clover' to Texas Stallion Stakes

Covered in Clover, winner of the $135,000 fillies division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity, will make her next start in the $125,000 Pan Zareta division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star on July 9, said her trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen also has September in Texas, runner-up in the Sales Futurity, pointing for the Pan Zareta. Both fillies are owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable.

The Pan Zareta is one of six restricted stakes to be run on the annual Stars of Texas Day program next Saturday.

Twilight post on Sunday

The races will start later than usual on Sunday, at 5 p.m. Central, to help accommodate a fireworks display following the 10-race card. The fireworks will be launched from the infield. Lone Star is catering to families on Sunday, with a host of activities and entertainment scheduled. In addition, a mascot race, featuring representatives from the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Rangers, will be held on the main track shortly before the fireworks begin.

* Vienna Circle will make his third start back from a layoff Sunday in the featured ninth race, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up. Vienna Circle drew post 6 in the field of six, and figures to get a stalking trip under jockey Casey Lambert. Last time at this level, Vienna Circle finished second from the rail. He is trained by Bruce Jackson.

* Jockey Justin Shepherd, who ranks fifth in the standings, is headed to Kentucky. "I'm going to Churchill for the last few days of their meet to try and hustle business for the upcoming season at Ellis Park," said the 18-year-old Shepherd.

* Races 2 through 5, which make up the early 50-cent pick four, will be simulcast in California on Sunday.