04/20/2009 11:00PM

Halo Najib heads Mitchell's invaders


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Zayat Stables and Southern California-based trainer Mike Mitchell plan to invade Lone Star Park on Saturday with as many as three horses for the afternoon's series of stakes. Halo Najib is a definite for the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile, while the team's undercard representatives could be Everlasting Beauty in the $50,000 Irving Distaff and Kays and Jays for the $50,000 Richland Hills.

"There's nothing that really fits them at Hollywood right now, so it's a good opportunity to send all three of them," Mitchell said Tuesday.

The card Saturday at Lone Star will be made up of four stakes worth a cumulative $450,000. The races, which also include the $50,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge for 3-year-olds, all serve as preps for the Lone Star Million Day program of stakes here May 25.

Mitchell, who in 2004 won the Texas Mile with Kela, could have the favorite for this year's race. Halo Najib was second by a half-length in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap at Santa Anita in his last start April 4. He earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 101.

"I think he fits," Mitchell said.

Gulfstream Park leading rider Jose Lezcano has the mount on Halo Najib, and has also been lined up to ride Everlasting Beauty and Kays and Jays. The horses are scheduled to fly to Lone Star on Thursday.

Everlasting Beauty, who would face fillies and mares at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf in the Irving, has won three of her last five starts. Her most recent score came in a $62,500 optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita on April 3. Kays and Jays, who would meet 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs in the Richland Hills, won an $80,000 optional claiming sprint at Santa Anita in her last start March 21.

The Texas Mile is a prep for the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, and were Halo Najib to run a big race Saturday he would come under serious consideration for a return trip to Texas next month, said Mitchell.

Jonesboro possible for Texas Mile

Jonesboro, who is now based at Lone Star after running a big third in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 4, could make his next start in the Texas Mile, his trainer, Randy Morse, said Tuesday. The other option for the horse is the $75,000 Bossleman/Gus Fonner at 1 1/16 miles at Fonner Park on Saturday.

"I'm probably going to enter both races and see," Morse said. He indicated that he's leaning toward the Texas Mile.

Jonesboro is part of the first division of horses Morse has ever had based at Lone Star. A native of Texas, Morse also plans to have a division at the Louisiana Downs meet that opens next month. Jonesboro is closing in on millionaire status for owner Michael Langford with earnings of $943,575. He set a strong pace last out in the Oaklawn Handicap, earning a 97 Beyer.

Return of Cheese Factory

It's tough to put up a Beyer of 99 in a statebred stakes and get beat. But that was the case for Cheese Factory last out, when he ran second to multiple stakes winner Gold Coyote in the $50,000 Harold Goodman Memorial. Cheese Factory returns to the overnight ranks in Thursday night's seventh race, a second-level allowance at six furlongs. It will be his first start since the Goodman last July, but he could go favored.

Cheese Factory has turned in a strong series of works for his return. He won his debut here a year ago, then after a subsequent allowance win took on Gold Coyote in the Goodman.

New interim director for horsemen

Marsha Rountree on Monday was named the interim executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership by the organization's board following the resignation of Tommy Azopardi. He had held the position for 12 years, and left the post to work more closely with the industry's legislative efforts for gaming at the state's tracks, said Rountree.

Rountree said the search for a new executive director would begin after the legislative session ends in June. The Texas Horsemen's Partnership represents both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse horsemen in Texas.