02/28/2006 1:00AM

Off his best year, Quinonez riding high

Jeff Coady / Coady Photography
Luis Quinonez rides More Moonlight to victory in the American Beauty.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - These are good times for jockey Luis Quinonez. He is coming off the richest year of his career. He is tied atop the Oaklawn Park standings with Jamie Theriot. And he gets to share the jocks' room with his younger brother, Belen Quinonez, while another brother, Alonso Quinonez, is preparing to launch his riding career, possibly late in the meet at Oaklawn.

Luis Quinonez won 171 races last year and had mount earnings of $3,613,802. That figure topped his 2004 total by more than $1 million, a year in which Quinonez rode the 2,000th winner of his career. Driving last year's earnings was stakes success - from Arkansas, to Louisiana, to Oklahoma, to New Mexico.

"We had a real good year last year," said Quinonez, who began 2005 with a bang when he won the Grade 3, $125,000 Razorback and Grade 3, $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup on the same weekend at Oaklawn.

Quinonez closed out the year winning stakes, too, while traveling from his home in Oklahoma for added-money races in Louisiana and New Mexico. Among his victories were four stakes with Premier Dance, and the $100,000 Zia Park Derby aboard Real Dandy.

Steve Asmussen trains Real Dandy, and he and Quinonez have continued their long association together this meet, with Quinonez being one of the riders the high-percentage Asmussen uses regularly. Among their recent wins together was the $50,000 American Beauty with More Moonlight on opening weekend at Oaklawn.

"Steve's been great," said Quinonez, 39. "He put me on the map this meet, giving me good horses to ride. Right away, we won six races."

On Thursday, Asmussen and Quinonez will team with top contender Joint Session in the third race. Asmussen and Quinonez formed a working relationship well over a decade ago, when both were based at Remington Park.

"Through the years, we've used Luis so much shipping into places that we weren't and he was at, just from knowing him from Remington Park in the early days," Asmussen said. "Then you look up, and you've got a lot of win pictures with him."

Last year alone, Asmussen and Quinonez won at a 40-percent clip, going 10 for 25.

In addition to support from Asmussen and other trainers, Quinonez said he is grateful for the work of his longtime agent, Gerry DiLaura. This year, the Oaklawn jockey colony is deeper than usual, since it includes a number of Fair Grounds regulars in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"It's a tough meet, real tough," said Quinonez. "Everybody is getting a little bit of business, and I'm happy that I'm right there with them. Nobody's dominant."

The standings back that up, with just a few wins separating the leading riders. Quinonez has won 15 races at the meet and has purse earnings of $318,680.

Quinonez, who won five titles at Canterbury, began riding in 1989.

Brownie Points eyes Honeybee

Quinonez's latest stakes win came aboard Brownie Points, whom he guided through a 12-horse field for an off-the-pace win in the $50,000 Martha Washington for 3-year-old fillies last Friday. After the race, trainer Donnie Von Hemel praised the ride, as well as the performance of Brownie Points.

"She ran a super race the other day," said Quinonez. "She came up through the inside and split horses and she ran away from them. She did it really easy. She's very nice."

Von Hemel said Brownie Points came out of the race in good order, and she is now being pointed for the $75,000 Honeybee for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn on March 25.

Trainer Larry Jones said he has two fillies under consideration for the Honeybee: Hoochie Glide, who won an allowance Sunday, and Shytoe Lafeet.

Lucky Bid in Thursday feature

Lucky Bid will be among the favorites in the featured 10th race Thursday, a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer. Some promising colts are in the field, including Grandstanding, Sovereign, and Antiqued.

Lucky Bid has an experience edge on those horses and is getting a little more ground to work with after rallying for second in a one-mile race at Oaklawn in his last start, on Feb. 4.

"The mile and a sixteenth ought to suit him a little better," said Joe Petalino, who trains Lucky Bid for Ilona Whetstone.

Lucky Bid earned his best Beyer Speed Figure for Petalino at the distance, when he was second by a neck in an entry-level allowance at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Jan. 1. In all, he has made four starts for Petalino since being moved to the Midwest from Southern California.

Petalino made an equipment change soon after Lucky Bid came to his barn.

"He was getting too far back, so we put blinkers on," said Petalino. "He's just learning how to run. Coming out of California, he was way back off those fast fractions. Over here, he's laying closer for us."