05/08/2007 11:00PM

Gonzalez in position to shine


Jockey Carlos Gonzalez is known as an excellent rider from the starting gate, and what he does for a horse he did for himself during the opening weekend at Louisiana Downs. Gonzalez won six races from 18 mounts at the Bossier City, La., track last Friday and Saturday to establish a two-win lead in the standings over Jeff Burningham.

The fast start comes after a strong winter at Oaklawn Park, where Gonzalez won 32 races to rank seventh in the standings. He is considered a top contender to win the title here after finishing second in the standings last season, two wins behind Lonnie Meche.

"I've got a good shot," said Gonzalez, 42. "We've just got to play it by ear and see how everything goes. Right now, everything's looking good."

Gonzalez has a strong client base, among his supporters trainers James Hodges, Gerald Romero, and Andrew Leggio. Gonzalez also will be riding first call for trainer Jorge Lara. Lara, a former assistant to perennial leading trainer Cole Norman, went 3 for 6 over the first two days of the Louisiana Downs meet to secure the top spot in the standings. Lara has 30 horses here and another 35 at Lone Star, where Gonzalez rode for a few weeks before Louisiana Downs opened.

"Jorge told me he wanted me to come to Lone Star and ride for him, and from there we would go to Louisiana Downs," said Gonzalez. "He'll be running in both places. I want to be at Louisiana Downs. There's no place like home."

Gonzalez went 7 for 19 while at Lone Star, riding mostly for Lara. The two then scored a double here on the opening Friday.

"Carlos is a good jockey from the gate," said Lara, a former jockey who rode with Gonzalez, "and I think if you've got a good jockey that breaks pretty good from the gate and kind of positions your horse well, your chances to win are always going to be pretty good. And he tries hard all the time."

Among the top horses Lara and Gonzalez will be teaming with at the meet is True Tails, a multiple stakes winner whose target is the $125,000 Hallowed Dreams Breeders' Cup here July 14. She is also being pointed for the $100,000 Valid Expectations at Lone Star on May 28.

"She's my No. 1 girl right now," Gonzalez said. "She's going to give what she has. She's an honest, honest filly."

Gonzalez and Lara will be in action together here Saturday with Tiger Monarch, who will shoot for his fourth straight win when he runs in the $40,000 Vilaxy, a 1 1/16-mile starter race. It is restricted to horses bred in Louisiana.

"We claimed him last year for $5,000, and this year he's been running real good," said Lara. "He's sharp right now."

Turf a priority for Bredar

Doug Bredar, the new racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, said he has been pleased with entries at the young meet, and has plans to make good use of the turf course this season.

"In the new [condition] book I'll have a mile and three-eighths maiden special weight on turf," he said. "I haven't seen too many of those around."

Bredar said he also plans to offer more open-company claiming races. And, for the new condition book that begins with the races of May 25, he has written four to five open allowances. He also said there will be a number of options for 2-year-olds.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything," Bredar said. "We'll give a couple of them a try, the new spots."

Bredar replaced Tony Patterson, who resigned from the racing secretary post earlier this year. Bredar is a former director of racing and racing secretary for Churchill Downs.

Deep field for optional claimer

Of the eight horses in Friday's fifth race, a $75,000 optional claimer, five have won stakes in the last year. The lineup for the one-mile turf race includes three starters who were stakes winners last meet at Louisiana Downs: Northern Scene, Erroneous I.D., and Commander Buck.

Also in the field is Middleweight, winner of the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park, and Saturday Deelites, winner of the Retama Park Breeders' Cup Turf. The optional claimer is expected to produce starters for the $50,000 Barksdale here June 23.

Also on the card Friday is the $40,000 Fresa and the $35,000 Kan of Sports, both starter races restricted to Louisiana-breds.