06/12/2009 12:00AM

Change of plan pays off for Torres


BOSSIER CITY, La. - For someone who was not supposed to be at Louisiana Downs this summer, jockey Francisco Torres has been rather high-profile. Torres was just one win behind defending riding champ Don Simington in the standings entering this week's racing, having visited the winner's circle 16 times. Torres, 39, had ridden just 73 mounts compared to Simington's 114.

Originally scheduled to ride at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania this summer, Torres said he and agent Derek Ducoing rethought their plans at the last minute.

"We had our bags packed and were headed that way," Torres said Friday morning. "Then we heard that Donnie [Meche] had been hurt, along with some other things, which was going to open up some business. We also thought back on our success here last year and that Louisiana connections really springboarded us to a hot start at the Fair Grounds meeting last fall."

Torres said he has heard people speculate that he was unable to get a license in Pennsylvania due to his history of substance abuse, but he said that was not the case.

"Absolutely not," he said. "We had already contacted the Pennsylvania Racing Commission as well as the stewards up there. There is no way we would have gone all that way only to see our license application rejected."

Torres also said that while he is grateful for his quick start to the current meeting, he also is a bit wary.

"I'm a little leery because this is the way we started at Fair Grounds last year before I got hurt," he said. "We were on a rampage down there and leading rider by many."

The injury Torres referred to happened on an unstarted 2-year-old that had shown considerable promise.

"It was going to be her last work before she ran," he said. "I looked over to James Graham, who we had worked in company with, just after the wire and was saying 'She worked good.' That was the last thing I remember."

The filly fell, breaking her neck and throwing Torres violently to the track.

"I broke my right collarbone and left shoulder," Torres said. "I did not start riding again until about the last two weeks of the meeting."

* Sunday's featured eighth race brings together 10 fillies and mares for a $10,000 claiming price at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Leestown Fantasie and Jone's Doll should vie for favoritism after each finished third against superior company in their last starts.