10/15/2002 11:00PM

Cornett stable on the march nationwide


SELMA, Texas - In a few years, owner Richard Englander could have some competition from Mark Cornett atop the national standings. Cornett, who won three stakes during the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame program Saturday night at Retama Park, has spent the last year and a half building up a 90-horse stable, mostly via the claim box, and employs trainers from Louisiana to Ohio to West Virginia to Pennsylvania.

Cornett's stable has won 70 races this year, and hit a high note Saturday when Eagle Lake won the $30,000 Fiesta Mile, Fitzroyal took the $30,000 Longhorn Handicap, and Bonus Bid scored in the $30,000 Selma.

The three horses race under the banner of Auburn Express, one of two stables owned by Cornett, with minority shares held by some of his family and friends. Cornett also races as Turf Express; one of that barn's biggest success stories this year was Prince Iroquois, a $25,000 claim who went on to finish second to Congaree in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, and who won the $50,000 Ark-La-Tex at Louisiana Downs.

"I've been doing this on a small scale for 12 years, and have increased the size of the stable in a year and a half," Cornett said.

Cornett expanded because he had more time to manage the stable after selling his roofing company. He also wanted to be able to cash in on the purse increases brought about by slot machines, and plans to have a number of horses at slots-rich Delta Downs when that meet opens Nov. 7.

He will also be sending some of his Retama winners to Sam Houston. Eagle Lake, who has won her last three, will run in either the $75,000 Martanza on dirt, or the $50,000 San Jacinto on turf. Both races are part of the Texas Champions Day program Nov. 16.

Fitzroyal, who has won two stakes in his last two starts, will point for either the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Stakes, also at Sam Houston on Nov. 16, or the track's $30,000 Conroe for 3-year-olds Nov. 30.

Bonus Bid will race next at Louisiana Downs in the $30,000 Senorita over seven furlongs Oct. 27.

State Challenge the goal for Parting

As Parting danced around the shed row while being walked the morning after her impressive win in the $125,000 fillies division of the Texas Stallion Stakes, it became evident that trainer Cindy Navarre's biggest task will be keeping the filly grounded until her next start, which comes in the $50,000 Bara Lass at Sam Houston on Nov. 16.

The race will be held over seven furlongs, the same distance as the $275,000 Great State Juvenile Fillies at Sam Houston on Dec. 7, which is the chief goal for Parting. The filly races for Preston Stables.

Texan Juvenile may be next for Leo

Leo's Last Hurrahy, who closed from well back to win the $125,000 colts and geldings division of the Texas Stallion Stakes over six furlongs, could make his next start around two turns. Trainer Bob Young is considering the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles for the colt, who races for Ken Murphy.

Young also is looking at the $50,000 Groovy over seven furlongs. Both races will be run at Sam Houston on Nov. 16 as part of Texas Champions Day.

* A catalog of 56 Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses will be auctioned in San Antonio on Saturday during the fourth annual Alamo Classic fall mixed sale at Freeman Coliseum. The auction is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Central.

* M.C. Seward, former director of the Racing Challenge for the American Quarter Horse Association, has been named horsemen's liaison and racing promotions manager for Delta Downs.

* Retama Park, which closes its Thoroughbred meet Oct. 26, will operate as a training center from Nov. 4 to April 20. An agreeable climate has made the track an increasingly popular place to winter.