04/18/2012 2:40PM

Hawthorne notes: More mature Torres leads the rider standings

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Arena Elvira comes into the Sixty Sails on a five-race win streak.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Word came Wednesday that Cisco Torres would be off his mounts at Hawthorne. Echoes of the past, there. Torres entered Wednesday’s card leading the jockey standings at the spring meet here, with 42 wins to second-best Tim Thornton’s 26. But for much of his riding career, success has often led Torres down the same road as failure. First in the standings or 26th, substance abuse and its blowback continuously knocked Torres off whatever perch he climbed.

Now 42, Torres has evinced a more serene demeanor the last few years. Maybe it was just from getting older, sticking around through the problems, but Torres’ core has seemed more solid, less susceptible to crumbling. And there’s still no reason to doubt that. Wednesday, Torres was in Kentucky, celebrating the birth of his first grandchild, born Tuesday night to the youngest of his four children.

“It’s all a little strange,” Torres said. “I don’t feel old, but to see my youngest daughter give birth, and hear people calling me grandpa, I don’t know what to say about it.”

Torres is a Chicago native, but it’s been decades since he spent an entire season here. That’s the plan now. Torres has ridden in Indiana in recent years, but said he plans to move his tack to Arlington when the Hawthorne meets ends late this month. Torres rode sparingly at Arlington in 2010 and 2007, but hasn’t spent an entire meet there in years.

And if Torres can hang onto the lead in the jockey standings, he’ll win his first riding title in about two decades. Work and natural talent have helped Torres this spring, but even more beneficial has been his current position as the lead rider for the Midwest Thoroughbreds stable of Rich Papiese. Midwest is running away with the owner’s title, while its primary Chicago trainer, Roger Brueggemann, is odds-on to top the trainer standings.

“Everything has fallen into place, and obviously it’s not all because of my doing,” said Torres. My agent [Al Plever] and I have been out there working our butts off starting last winter, when we came in the last six weeks of the meet and got hot at the end. But we got lucky to be riding for Midwest. Anyone riding for them is going to win races.”

Torres rode for Papiese years ago when Papiese first started racing horses, a relationship that eventually landed Torres his present gig.

“We knew each other from the early 90s,” Torres said. “When I first got here I wasn’t riding for him right off the bat. Like everyone else, he wanted to make sure everything was right with me, physically and mentally. Once the trust was there, he started riding me.”

Torres continues to earn trust. The partying he did Tuesday night was of the tender, family variety. He’ll be back in action here Friday.

Sixty Sails draws Arena Elvira

Scrapped for lack of purse money in 2011, the Grade 3 Sixty Sails has returned in fine form this year. Saturday’s $200,000 race for older females going 1 1/8 miles on dirt drew a strong field of eight on Wednesday. The group is headed by Arena Elvira, the Bill Mott-trained 5-year-old who won the Falls City last fall at Churchill and is working on a five-race winning streak. Just behind Arena Elvira in the Falls City came Afleeting Lady, another Sixty Sails entrant, while from Florida comes Beloveda, who finished second to Awesome Maria last out in the Rampart Stakes. Juanita comes off a second-place finish behind Havre de Grace in the New Orleans Ladies, the Todd Pletcher trained Love and Pride is a speedy multiple stakes winner, and She’s All In recently was second in the Grade 3 Azeri at Oaklawn.

* Friday’s feature comes quickly. Race 1 on a nine-race program is for second-level allowance horses or $35,000 claimers, and the Mike Maker-trained Isthmus looks like a formidable entrant in a six-horse field.