08/13/2010 1:49PM

Bourque calls an end to riding career

Alexander Barkoff
Jockey Curt Bourque guides Warrior Maid to victory in the Louisiana Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on May 22 at Louisiana Downs.

OPELOUSAS, La. – A significant chapter in Louisiana racing quietly came to a conclusion this summer at Evangeline Downs, close to where it started 26 years ago.

Veteran jockey Curt Bourque has decided to hang his tack up after spending parts of four decades in the saddle. Bourque, 42, had his first mount at the old Evangeline Downs in 1984 and rode his first winner at the old Jefferson Downs in suburban New Orleans later that year. His final victory came last month when he guided reigning Louisiana-bred horse of the year Star Guitar to victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Classic. Over the years, Bourque won 3,536 races, had more than $46 million in purse earnings, and won riding titles at Fair Grounds, Hawthorne, and Sportsman’s Park.

“I did some soul searching” reflected Bourque about his pending retirement. “It seems I was still winning races, but that thrill, that desire, was just not as strong as it once was.”

“I have been very lucky over the years,” he continued. “Since I started riding in ’84, the only serious injury I ever had was a broken collarbone. That’s it. I thought while I still had my health and was still young enough, it was time to move on with the next phase of my life.”

While Bourque seldom missed any time in the saddle due to injury, he did serve several suspensions for substance abuse. It is a subject he talks about freely now that it is in the past.

“There’s no doubt I was my own worst enemy. The drugs, the alcohol, it seems every time I would come back, I would fall into that same trap all over again.”

Bourque credits Al Stall Sr., longtime chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission and father of trainer Al Stall Jr., with getting his career back on track after it had been derailed.

“Mr. Stall always had faith in me, he believed in me, and that helped a lot. That is how I got to know Little Al [Stall Jr.]. We became friends and have had a lot of success over the years.

Those sentiments were echoed by Al Stall Jr. last week from Saratoga.

“Yes, I consider Curt a friend, a good friend,” he said. “But I stood by him and rode him for more selfish reasons than for any kind of charity. He always had a ton of talent, you always like to ride the best rider you can.”

Like many ex riders, Bourque plans to stay in the racing business.

“My wife and I have a 44-acre farm outside of Opelousas, near the new Evangeline,” he said. “We have a couple of broodmares we plan to breed and maybe break some babies. Racing is all I have ever known.”

While one chapter of the Bourque riding legacy has come to a close, another is just beginning. Bourque’s son David is currently riding at Evangeline and is sixth in the standings, with 47 wins.

“He’s having a good summer, and things are going well with him,” Bourque said with pride. “Hopefully, he can keep it going.”

Wando Redd eyes Remington stakes

Wando Redd is one of the better 3-year-olds stabled at Louisiana Downs, but his niche right now is sprinting. Plans are to bypass the upcoming Prelude, the local prep for the Super Derby, and head to Oklahoma for the $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup, trainer Jorge Lara said. The six-furlong race will be run Aug. 21.

Wando Redd ran the best race of his career July 22, when he rolled to a five-length win in a first-level allowance over older horses at Louisiana Downs. He covered six furlongs in 1:09.80 and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 93. And it’s a race that looked even stronger Thursday, when the fourth-place finisher from it, Major Blues, came back to upset 2-5 favorite Marquee Event in an optional claimer.

“We’re pretty high on him,” Lara said of Wando Redd, whom he trains for Sandra Jarrett. “He’s improving. He’s still a young 3-year-old.”

Lara said at this point in time, he feels Wando Redd is best served sprinting. He was given a shot at two turns in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in May, and after pushing a hot pace, he finished a distant fourth to Game On Dude. Wando Redd then cut back to one turn for his next race June 4, a first-level allowance at Louisiana Downs, and he finished second after setting the pace. Lara noted that the winner, In Jack’s Memory, came back and ran third in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

“He’s got so much speed,” Lara said of Wando Redd. “Right now, he just wants to be going fast.”

Carlos Gonzalez has the mount in the Sprint Cup.

– additional reporting by Mary Rampellini