09/12/2006 11:00PM

Catlaunch faces unbeaten 'Pforperfect'

Email

Catlaunch cuts back to a sprint at Thistledown on Friday when he goes in quest of his seventh win of the year from nine starts while facing seven fellow Ohio-bred rivals in the $50,000 Honey Jay Stakes at six furlongs.

Catlaunch began his 2006 campaign on May 6, winning the six-furlong Edward Babst Memorial at Beulah Park. On June 2 he won the six-furlong Rowland Memorial at Thistledown. Since that race he has been running in two-turn events, winning his last two starts. His forte is speed, and although he will not have things all his way in the early stages of this race, he is the horse to beat. Ivan Gonzalez will ride for trainer Ivan Vasquez.

Pforperfectspistol is undefeated in four career starts and will be stepping into a stakes for the first time. He can keep up with Catlaunch on the early lead and should be the main competition. Scott Spieth rides for trainer Jeff Radovich.

I Cant Refuse won this race last year. He has been competitive in his last five races in open company at Thistledown and Mountaineer, and has a strong late kick when sprinting. The likely fast early pace will work to his advantage.

* Fans watching the races on the track apron last Saturday at Thistledown were startled to see a small plane land in the infield prior to the start of the last race. Robert Metzer of Roanoke, Va., was flying his man-made ultralight aircraft when he got caught in a rainstorm and got lost when his GPS system failed. He spotted a patch of green through the clouds and safely landed in the infield. After a brief investigation by security and local police, he was allowed to resume his trip.

The Thistledown infield had previously been used as a landing strip when the late Edward J. DeBartolo owned the track.

* Claim Form, a 5-year-old gelding, has finished in front in his last seven races, but only has five wins in that span. He was disqualified twice, most recently on Monday, a race from which he was claimed for $7,500.

His trainer, Cricket Bosley, is adept at keeping horses on form. Years ago he won 14 in a row with Speedy Crossing.

Atokad

Horsemen's Atokad Downs in South Sioux City, Neb., closes out Nebraska's live Thoroughbred season this weekend with a festival meet that will offer nearly $200,000 in purses for 18 races over the three-day weekend.

Formerly known as Atokad Park, the track closed amid financial troubles in 1998 and was sold to a private enterprise. The Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association bought most of the grounds and reopened the facility for simulcasting in 2001 with a single day of live racing.

Just as it did in Omaha with Horsemen's Park after the close of Ak-Sar-Ben, the HBPA returned to a successful simulcast market. Shon Goodman, in his second year as general manager at Atokad, has added a full-service food menu in the club room, a big hit with patrons.

The festival races start Friday at 4 p.m. The six-race card offers a minimum purse of $10,000. Post time for Saturday and Sunday is 2 p.m.

Each day offers one race for Nebraska-breds, and the other five are restricted to horses that have raced primarily in the state, requiring at least one start at two of the three standard meets: Fonner Park, State Fair Park, and Columbus Races.

In Friday's feature race, Sami's Song will seek her sixth win of the year, facing five others in a $6,500 claimer for fillies and mares at about 6 1/2 furlongs. Sami's Song, trained by Terrell Hemmer, and Find Sara, from the David Grimes barn, are among the few horses that have won at each of the state's meets this year (Fonner Park, Lincoln, Horsemen's Park, and Columbus). R.D. Williams rides Sami's Song. Dennis Collins rides Find Sara, who is on a three-race win streak.

* After this weekend, Pair Play Park in Hastings, Neb., will finish out the season with a two-race card for Quarter Horses on Sept. 23.

- Bill Hodtwalker

Fairmount

Double Banner and Partywithavengence each got their sixth win of the Fairmount meet last week. Double Banner notched his latest win, his fourth in a row, last Friday in a second-level allowance for Illinois-breds. Partywithavengence, whose four-race win streak was snapped in a starter allowance on Aug. 26, began a new streak Tuesday, capturing a $6,250 optional claimer. Both geldings are owned and trained by Mike Durham.

* Half-brothers Christian Ridge and Tejano Taylor were winners last Saturday. Christian Ridge won the sixth race, a $4,000 claimer. His younger brother Tejano Taylor won the seventh race, a first-level allowance.

Christian Ridge and Tejano Taylor are out of the mare Runaway Emily A, but were foaled in different states. Christian Ridge is a Kentucky-bred by Slew City Slew; Tejano Taylor is an Illinois-bred by Tejano Run.

* Rafael Hernandez is riding at Hoosier Park this week, but his lead at the Fairmount meet seems secure with only eight days left. Through Tuesday, Hernandez had a 138-108 lead over Danush Sukie.- Vance Hanson

Great Lakes Downs

Former jockey Cassandra Snyder saddled her first career winner as a trainer - Research Rocks, who led all the way to win the fourth race Monday, a maiden special weight for Michigan-bred 2-year-old fillies. Research Rocks paid $29.40 and keyed a $64,601.60 superfecta payoff.

Owned by Salvador Garibay, Research Rocks is nominated for the Sickle's Image Stakes, on Sept. 23.

- C.A. Shoemaker

Oaklawn

Oaklawn Park will open its meet on Jan. 19 with a minimum purse of $11,000 for its lowest-level claiming races, a record for the track.

The new purse minimum comes courtesy of the richest purse structure in track history. Daily purses are projected at $290,000, a significant increase from the $235,000 level just a few years ago, in 2003. Oaklawn paid out $275,000 a day during its last meet, which ended in April, and $260,000 in 2005.

Oaklawn's continual purse increases are due in part to Instant Racing, a parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. Introduced five years ago, the machines averaged $1.1 million in handle a day at Oaklawn's 2006 meet, up from $703,000 a day in 2005.

Oaklawn officials also said that maiden special weight races will be worth $32,000. Stall applications are due Nov. 8, with the stable area to open on Dec. 1.

- Mary Rampellini

Remington Park

Jockey Cliff Berry has hit a number of milestones in the last several years, and he hit a big one Tuesday night at Remington Park when he registered the 3,000th win of his career in the sixth race. He celebrated with fellow riders after guiding the undefeated filly Madame Menehune to victory in a turf allowance for trainer Bret Calhoun.

The milestone for Berry, 44, includes wins on Quarter Horses. A native of Missouri and a resident of Oklahoma, he has won 10 Thoroughbred riding titles at his home track of Remington. He has also won the last two Thoroughbred titles at Lone Star Park, and set a record for wins in a meet by a jockey there earlier this year, with 103. Berry is the leading rider at Remington, with nearly 1,500 wins.

Berry's other milestones in recent years include becoming the all-time winningest rider at Remington and hitting the $3 million mark in mount earnings in a year, which he achieved in 2004. Last year, he rode a career-best 240 winners for personal-best mount earnings of $3.6 million. Berry is poised to surpass those earnings this year, as his mounts have already made $3.4 million through Tuesday.

- Mary Rampellini

Sam Houston

Sam Houston's Quarter Horse meet, which closed Saturday, handled an average of $378,711 a night, down from $406,798 during the same meet in 2005. Handle on incoming simulcasts on live race days was up, from an average of $416,062 to $429,557. Attendance averaged 4,252 a night, down from 4,853 in 2005. Purses were the same, averaging $87,834 a day.

James Brooks, 55, won his second straight riding title at Sam Houston. Brooks had 52 wins, eight more than runner-up Rodrigo Vallejo. One of his main clients was the meet's leading trainer, Judd Kearl.

Snowy Alibi was the horse of the meet following two major stakes wins at Sam Houston: the Grade 1, $316,000 Sam Houston Futurity, and the $343,305 TQHA Sales Futurity. He is a candidate for the $400,000 Dash for Cash Futurity at Lone Star Park in October, said his trainer, Janet VanBebber.

* Sam Houston set Dec. 2 as the date for Texas Champions Day, a program of seven stakes. The Thoroughbred meet opens Nov. 17.

- Mary Rampellini

Yavapai

Yavapai Downs had gains in average daily handle and total handle for its 60-day meet, which concluded last week. Daily handle from all sources averaged $516,034, a gain of 5.91 percent over 2005, when wagering averaged $487,255. Total wagering for the meet was $49,539,238, compared to $46,776,494 in 2005.

- Michael Hammersly