05/29/2001 11:00PM

DRF's around the ovals


Bill's passage would be boost for Fairmount

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - Local horsemen and track personnel have been holding their breath for the past week, as House Bill 1069, which would enable Fairmount to keep 80 percent of the revenue generated by simulcast wagers made after 6:30 p.m. Central for Thoroughbred purses, has been sent to the desk of Gov. George Ryan for his signature. Ryan has 90 days to either veto or sign the bill into law. If Ryan takes no action, the bill will automatically go into effect.

House Bill 1069 would change the present law, which gives 100 percent of night simulcast revenue to harness racing purses, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2000, the date that Fairmount discontinued harness racing to become a full-time Thoroughbred facility. At stake is $5.4 million from 2000 and projected income from 2001.

The feeling among horsemen is one of cautious optimism. The local industry has been suffering since riverboat casinos were first introduced to the area in the early 1990's. Repeated attempts to bring in slot machines have failed and business at Fairmount has been declining steadily, which prompted the track to discontinue the harness program in December 1999. If the bill goes into effect, horsemen are hopeful for an extended meet with larger purses. Fairmount's live meet is scheduled to run through Aug. 11 with purses averaging only $40,000 a day.

Thomas Trione Jr., 37, who four years ago purchased an all-purpose training-breeding-boarding facility 19 miles from the track in Marine, Ill., is in a situation similar to many horsemen.

"If the bill doesn't go into effect, I will have no choice but to sell my farm and either get into a new line of business or move to a different circuit," Trione said.

- Rod Peck


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - With nearly a week of unrelenting rainfall, Canterbury Park track superintendent Tony Caterina was forced to set the dogs out for six straight days during morning training hours while he and his crew worked overtime to maintain a functional racing surface. Track officials elected to switch two races originally scheduled for the grass course - including the featured Shakopee Turf Express - to the main track on Memorial Day when they determined the going would be too soft.

* Jockey agent Barbara Noll has demonstrated amazing resilency over the past few weeks. Between visits to the backstretch each morning, Noll, who handles engagements for jockeys Paul Nolan and Steve Sullivan, has been making a number of 185-mile trips to the family farm near the Iowa border to help her son, Steve, who was recently hospitalized with a heart ailment. There is plenty to do at the homestead after a recent storm swept through the property, damaging outbuildings and destroying a new travel trailer.

Noll's toughest break came last week in the Canterbury Park racing office when she was struck by a large console television set when it fell from its ceiling bracket. She suffered no broken bones and was back hustling mounts after just a few days of rest.

- David M. Miller

Great Lakes Downs

MUSKEGON, Mich. - Terry Houghton took over the top spot in the Great Lakes Downs jockey standings with 11 wins over the four-day race week, including three riding triples and two stakes wins. Houghton leads the standings with 32 wins in 18 days of racing. Freddie Mata holds second place with 27 wins. Mary Doser, who had a couple of hat tricks herself this week, checks in third with 23 wins.

Houghton won last Friday's feature, the $45,000 Lansing Stakes aboard last year's Michigan 2-year-old champion, Secret Romeo ($2.60) for trainer Gerald Bennett and owner AAC Stables. Saturday night, Houghton had to sweat out a claim of foul before his mount, I Match Too ($6), was made the official winner of the $45,000 Regret Stakes. Ronnie Allen trains I Match Too.

Besides I Match Too, Allen is also the trainer of Blushing Grey and Match the Silence, who won this week to keep Allen tied for leading trainer. Richard Rettele picked up five wins this week to be on even terms with Allen in the training race. Bennett is third with nine wins.

- C.A. Shoemaker

Lincoln State Fair

LINCOLN, Neb. - Jockey Megan Ludlow won the first race on Monday's Memorial Day card at the Lincoln State Fair after escaping serious injury in a starting gate mishap Saturday night. Ludlow was thrown out the back of the gate prior to the seventh race when her mount became unsettled. The race was delayed for over a half-hour while medics attended to the injured rider. She was excused from her mounts Sunday afternoon but returned to ride Monday.

o In stakes action last weekend, Harvey Bengal overcame being forced in at the start to register a 6 1/2-length win in the Journal Star Stakes. Watch Me Dazzle, the second-place finisher in the field of five, was disqualified after veering into the three horses inside of him at the start and causing considerable interference.

Monday, Herb Riecken's powerful duo of High Dice and Buzz Bar dominated a field of five in the Big Red Mile Handicap. High Dice shook off his stablemate to score by 4 3/4 lengths, while Buzz Bar was an amazing 24 3/4 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

- Bill Hodtwalker

Remington Park

Rulon Gardner, a 2-year-old Quarter Horse named for the gold medal-winning wrestler from last year's Olympics, was the fastest qualifier for the Grade 1 $466,649 Heritage Place Futurity last Saturday at Remington Park. The 350-yard finale is to be run June 9.

Rulon Gardner, the man, knows about his namesake. "The owners met Mr. Gardner at a farm and agriculture show and [co-owner] Joe Morgan told him he named a horse after him," said Pat Swan, who trains Rulon Gardner, the horse. "After that [Gardner] went crazy and he got his agent and his publicist and he said 'If that horse can run I want you to call me because we'll be there to see it.' "

* G.R. Carter set a single-season record for wins by a jockey during a Remington Park Quarter Horse meet when he won his 61st race of the 37-night season. Carter broke Lane Suire's record of 60 wins, which was achieved during a 49-day meet in 1989.

* Eyesa Special, winner of last year's $2.1 million All-American Futurity, qualified for the Grade 1 Heritage Place Derby last Sunday. The finale is June 9.

- Mary Rampellini

Retama Park

Retama Park near San Antonio will offer 21 stakes worth more than $910,000 when the track opens for its fall Thoroughbred meet on Aug. 3. The 51-day season will run through Oct. 27. Daily purses during the meet will average a record $104,000.

The $100,000 El Joven for 2-year-olds at a mile on turf, and $100,000 La Senorita for 2-year-old fillies at a mile on turf, highlight the stakes schedule. Both races are to be run Sept. 1. Other stakes of note include the $50,000 Margarita Breeders' Cup for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf Aug. 4, and the $50,000 Retama Turf Cup over 1 1/16 miles on turf on Aug. 11.

* Retama Park will stage its third annual Texas Hall of Fame Day on Oct. 6. The program, a series of seven stakes for state-breds worth a cumulative $270,000, complements inductions into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, located at Retama Park. New stakes on Hall of Fame night this year are the Riverside and Honeymoon for 2-year-olds, which replace both divisions of the Texas Open Futurity.

Stall applications are due June 27.

- Mary Rampellini