12/05/2006 12:00AM

Campbell clicking with new track


Jockey Jesse Campbell laid plans to spend the winter at Fair Grounds several months ago, but in scheming the invasion, he probably didn't envision entering the third week of the meet sitting third in the jockey standings. After the dust cleared Sunday, 16-year-old Joe Talamo remained on top the leader-board with 14 wins, followed by Donnie Meche - riding basically first call for leading trainer Scott Blasi - with 11 and Campbell with nine. To ice that sweet start, Campbell won Saturday's Tenacious Handicap aboard Kid Grindstone, who is trained by Campbell's father, Mike.

Campbell rode regularly at Fair Grounds during the 2000-2001 meet, but this time of year he usually is freezing his boots off at Hawthorne. This year, he took 133 Hawthorne mounts before hitting the road, coming to Fair Grounds several weeks before the meet's start to try to build up business.

"I kind of made plans to go this summer, just when Arlington was getting started," Campbell said. "It gets me out of Hawthorne a little bit, and obviously the money's attractive down here. I knew I'd have some business, but I didn't know it'd be this good. That's why I came down so early - I was here three weeks before the meet started."

Campbell has benefited in no small part by hooking up with uber-agent Lenny Pike. Pike is best known for booking mounts for Robby Albarado, a perennial contender for leading Fair Grounds jock. Albarado only began riding here last week, having finished out the Churchill season, but so far he has one win in 14 mounts to Campbell's nine wins in 35 mounts. Still, Albarado's tempo is sure to increase, but Campbell said he's settled comfortably into his role as a major agent's "second" rider.

"The first couple days I worked with Lenny, I was a little uncomfortable," Campbell said. "Just talking on the phone, we didn't know the way each other worked. Lenny, he's big in the game. As soon as Lenny got here himself, we just eased right in. It's been a good fit. Lenny and Robby were very professional about everything."

In fact, in Saturday's Tenacious 'Cap, it was Campbell hanging on for the win aboard Kid Grindstone, with Albarado giving futile chase aboard favored Patriot Act, whose late run fell a neck short. Kid Grindstone will remain stabled at Fair Grounds, but "more than likely will get some time off," said Campbell, emphasizing that his father hadn't yet talked to Kid Grindstone's owner, Avers Wexler, about immediate plans.

Patriot Act likely for Louisiana BC

Patriot Act, long regarded as a significant talent, might have run one of the best races of his stop-and-start career in defeat Saturday and is likely to come back Jan. 6 in the $75,000 Louisiana Breeders' Cup Handicap, trainer Neil Howard said.

"He came out of it good," Howard said. "But we'll make a final decision a couple weeks down the road. My immediate feeling is we'd go for the next race."

When Patriot Act finished second as a maiden in the 2004 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland he floated onto the 2005 Kentucky Derby radar. But Patriot Act suffered an injury and didn't even win a maiden race until September 2005. There have been other layoffs, but now Patriot Act has gotten into a rhythm, and he nearly won the Tenacious with a furious rally after racing last behind a slow pace.

"Hopefully we'll have an uninterrupted schedule, and we'll see if my gut feeling about him is right," said Howard.

Howard also said that Brilliant, a promising 3-year-old grass horse, was at Fair Grounds, though he is only walking at this point. Brilliant, Howard said, is most likely to make his 4-year-old debut Feb. 10 in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup.

Costa Rising gets outside post

Saturday's Louisiana Champions Day card was drawn Monday, and the potential star of the day, Costa Rising, was unlucky. The favorite for the $150,000 Champions Day Classic, Costa Rising drew the outside post in an 11-horse field, meaning he will need luck to go along with his obvious ability.

A 3-year-old trained by Joseph Stanley Boxie for owner Charles Castille, Costa Rising is unbeaten on turf and dirt against Louisiana-bred competition since he was stretched out to two turns. Other than a fourth in the Super Derby and a sixth in the Commonwealth Turf at Keeneland in October, Costa Rising has won seven in a row. On Nov. 18 at Delta, facing competition similar to that in Saturday's Classic, he won a Louisiana-bred stakes by 4 1/2 lengths.

The Classic is the finale on an 11-race card that begins with three Quarter Horse Stakes.

Young chose not to rush 'Tensas'

Trainer Troy Young nominated 3-year-old gelding Tensas Phone Call to the Champions Day Sprint, and though Young chose to bring Tensas Phone Call back from a seven-month layoff in a Louisiana-bred allowance race Saturday, one could see why Young was thinking stakes. Tensas Phone Call ran his career record to 3 for 3 with an effortless 10 3/4-length blowout. His 5 1/2-furlong time of 1:03.80 was achieved with no encouragement from jockey Curt Bourque.

"I could've started him in the [Champions Day Sprint], but he's a 3-year-old, and I know he's got a bright future," said Young, who trains Tensas Phone Call for his father, Lee Young. "I kept him in college for one more year before sending him to the pros."

Tensas Phone Call was laid up with a hairline fracture of the cannon bone, an injury that healed with rest. Though Tensas Phone Call is obviously very fast, Young believes Tensas Phone Call will stretch out, and said he hasn't settled on a next start.

* Thursday's ninth-race Fair Grounds feature is a seven-horse second-level allowance carded for about 1 1/16 miles on turf, and competition runs deep. The field includes Chin High, a stakes winner this past spring, but could have Heart of a Leader and Zetetic as the favorites.