12/08/2006 12:00AM

With big number nearing, Thompson keeps priorities

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Terry Thompson rode a winner on Nov. 26, opening day of the Turfway Park holiday meet, bringing him to within two of hitting the 2,000-win milestone.

Thompson then retreated to Ankeny, Iowa, which he has made his year-round home for the past five years with his wife and four children. Two thousand, it seems, can wait, and with good reason.

Like quite a few other jockeys based in the Midwest, Thompson catches a breather when December rolls around. Speaking Friday from Iowa, he said the grind of racetrack life almost demands that he take time off so as to avoid severe burnout.

"You listen to the radio on a Friday and you hear people talk about how excited they are the weekend is here," said Thompson, a 35-year-old Omaha native who has been riding for 15 years. "Well, in our business, the weekend is just another day. It's a seven-day-a-week business, so I've kind of made it a point every December to take off and recharge my batteries if I can."

Thompson will next ride competitively at the Oaklawn Park meet that starts Jan. 19, although he will begin getting on horses in early January to prepare for his return. Thompson is not the only jockey with this kind of annual ritual: well-established veterans such as Calvin Borel, Mark Guidry, John McKee, Luis Quinonez, and Cliff Berry also have made habits of crafting vacation time in December when feasible.

"Last year I rode in December, but that's only because the Fair Grounds was running their meet at Louisiana Downs and I thought it'd help me at Oaklawn to be there," recalled Thompson. "But I got my downtime back this year. It's great to be able to spend the holidays with my family and just get away for a little bit. Then I come back fresh and excited and ready for another year."

When Thompson returns at Oaklawn, it will be with veteran agent Doc Danner handling his business. Danner was the agent for Pat Day for about 10 years.

"I'm already looking forward to Oaklawn because of what Doc can do for my business," said Thompson.

Leparoux returns, scores

After missing the first six programs of the holiday meet, Julien Leparoux returned to Turfway on Wednesday night and promptly rode three winners at the Florence, Ky., track.

Leparoux, the leading jockey in North America in wins this year, rode another winner Thursday night, and after being scheduled to ride here Friday and Saturday, he was booked to ride Sunday at Hollywood Park in California for his main client, trainer Patrick Biancone. Over the last few weeks, Leparoux has served two suspensions and made several trips to California.

With Leparoux absent in the early stages of the meet, Miguel Mena and apprentice Alonso Quinonez have fared best among the jockey colony. Into Friday night action, Mena had 14 winners and Quinonez had 10. Both riders have Steve Elzey working as their agent.

Ten entered in mile feature

The Sunday feature at Turfway is a competitive one-mile race governed by third-level allowance conditions and a $50,000 claiming option. Ten horses, led by Captain Malory and Buckeye Buddy, are entered in the $25,000 feature, which goes as the eighth of nine races.

The next stakes here is the $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes, for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/8 miles. It will be run next Saturday, Dec. 16.

* Jockey Juan Enriquez, who has 18 overall wins this year, fractured a leg in a starting-gate incident before the fourth race Thursday night and will be out indefinitely.