01/06/2009 1:00AM

Court returning to Oaklawn


Jockey Jon Court plans to ride at the Oaklawn Park meet that opens Jan. 16, and the move could mean a year-round return to the Midwest for the rider, who is now based in Southern California.

"I would like to see it," Court said Tuesday. "I've got family there, and we do miss the Midwest. We got out here, got comfortable, came with a five-year goal, and achieved that.

"This is something we've been discussing over a period of time."

Court, 48, won multiple riding titles in the Midwest before heading to Southern California in 2004. He made the circuit switch with the encouragement of trainer Doug O'Neill and owners Ty and Lee Leatherman, for whom he won the 2003 Japan Dirt Cup on Fleetstreet Dancer.

During his time in California, Court won four consecutive stakes on turf champion Leroidesanimaux in 2004-05; rode Cambiocorsa to seven of her eight straight wins on Santa Anita's downhill turf course in 2005-06; and won the 2004 and 2005 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf on Valentine Dancer.

Court said he will ride the entire opening weekend at Oaklawn, which includes a Monday card. He is then scheduled to return to California for the Sunshine Millions program the following weekend. After that, Court will return to Arkansas to ride full time at Oaklawn.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Court and his wife, Krystal, the daughter of Oaklawn-based trainer Jinks Fires, were married in Hot Springs, Ark. Court won the Oaklawn title in 2000 and also led all riders at Hoosier Park in 1996, 1997, and 1998 and at Ellis Park from 1987 to 1991.

Court, who is 1 for 19 at the young Santa Anita meet, has been part of the filming for a jockey-themed reality series that will debut next month on the cable network Animal Planet.

Court's agent at Oaklawn will be Tony King, whose past clients have included Willie Martinez and Randall Toups.

Sandburr retired at age 10

Sandburr, the popular Texas-bred who is now 10, was retired following a fourth-place finish in a $25,000 claiming race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 3. Before that, the gelding was third in the $75,000 Star of Texas at Retama Park, a statebred stakes he had won in both 2006 and 2007.

"The race the other day was his final start," said Michael Stidham, who trains Sandburr for Feel the Thunder Stable. "We're going to retire him."

Stidham said he plans to contact Chris McCarron about Sandburr being part of the program at the Hall of Fame jockey's North American Racing Academy. Another of Stidham's past trainees, Desert Air, is now based at the academy. There also is the option of life on a private farm for Sandburr.

"People have asked me about him," Stidham said, "like as a riding horse, that type of thing, just giving him a happy home."

Sandburr retires with a record of 16 wins from 62 starts for earnings of $476,321. Feel the Thunder Stable claimed the gelding for $20,000 in 2006, and he went on to become a multiple stakes winner. Stidham said one of Sandburr's career highlights was his 2007 win in the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds.

"He was a great horse to have around the barn," Stidham said. "He was a real hard-trying barn pet that we had a lot of fun with. Everybody will miss him."

Sandburr, who is stabled at Fair Grounds, is a son of Sandpit.

Stealth Cat named top Texas-bred

Stealth Cat, who last year won four sprint stakes for fillies and mares, will be honored as the Texas-bred horse of the year during the Texas Thoroughbred Association's annual awards banquet Saturday at the Westin Park Central Hotel in Dallas.

Stealth Cat won the $100,000 Valid Expectations and $50,000 JEH Stallion Station Stakes last summer at Lone Star Park and then won the $50,000 Adena Springs Turf Sprint at Remington Park and the $50,000 Yellow Rose at Retama. She led all Texas-breds in a points system that determines champions. She is owned by J. Kirk Robison and trained by Steve Asmussen.

The banquet will be emceed by racing personality Chris Lincoln. It is part of the TTA's annual meeting, which runs from Friday night through Sunday. There will be several educational seminars during the conference, which will be held in conjunction with both the Texas Quarter Horse Association and the Texas Arabian Breeders Association.

One of the key seminars on Saturday will give an update on the legislative effort to get video lottery terminals in Texas.

* Louisiana Downs will open its Quarter Horse meet Saturday.