04/20/2004 11:00PM

If Mile works out, Kela may return for Handicap


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Kela is the latest California-based horse to shoot for a major stakes double at Lone Star Park. He will run Saturday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile, and with a good performance could return to the track for the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 31.

The races are the two richest stakes of the meet for older horses. Dixie Dot Com came in from California and swept them in 2001. And last year, Bluesthestandard was going for the same sweep after winning the Texas Mile, but finished second in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Kela arrived from his Southern California base on Monday.

"We're looking at both races," said Mike Mitchell, who trains Kela. "If he runs well in the one, we could come back for the other."

Kela has been facing some top-flight competition at home. He was a troubled fifth to Dynever last out in the Grade 3 San Bernardino on April 3, and before that ran fourth to Pico Central in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap. Following that race, Pico Central won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

Mitchell purchased Kela privately last fall on behalf of Jay Manoogian. The horse was given some time off, and resumed racing in the San Carlos on March 7. He shows some strong works in preparation for the Texas Mile.

"He's ready to run the race of his life," said Mitchell. "I feel like a mile is a very good distance for him. He was second to Congaree at a mile at Del Mar."

David Nuesch has worked Kela and will ride the horse Saturday. Kela is a stakes winner of $312,527 and is by Numerous.

There were seven probables for the Texas Mile as of Wednesday, led by the Bobby Frankel-trained Snorter. Crafty Shaw will not start in the race because travel arrangements could not be made, according to trainer Pete Vestal. Crafty Shaw could be sent here later this meet for the Lone Star Handicap, said Vestal.

Ardoin joins new operation in Tyler

Ronald Ardoin has resigned his position as farm trainer with Turf Express to join a new racing and breeding operation being started by Mike and Pam Wing. Ardoin, who retired from riding earlier this year, has been named vice president and general manager of the new venture, Auburn Creek Farms, in Tyler, Texas.

Ardoin will also train a stable of 20 horses for the Wings at Louisiana Downs. The stable will also race at Lone Star, and eventually in Kentucky.

The Wings were stockholders in Turf Express, but have decided to branch out on their own. Turf Express had leased property from the couple in Tyler, but that property will now make up Auburn Creek. As a result, Turf Express has moved the bulk of its farm and stallion operations to north Texas, said Mark Cornett, president of Turf Express. Cornett said he has not yet filled the position left by Ardoin.

Ardoin joined Auburn Creek Farms in early April.

"Our plan is in five years to make the Wings the leading money earners in Texas, and in seven years, the leading breeders," said Ardoin. "We're very fortunate to be teaming up with them. They are class acts who want a class operation with class horses."

The Wings have two operations in the Tyler area. One includes a six-furlong training track, a swimming pool for horses, round pens, and barns. The Wings have also just purchased Richland Farms, which has a seven-eighths of a mile training track. Ardoin said lights will be installed around that track in order to prepare horses for night racing in Texas and Louisiana.

"We're going to be a full-fledged operation," he said, noting that includes everything from boarding broodmares to breaking yearlings and standing stallions. The operation is open to outside horses.

Ardoin, 46, retired from race riding in late February. He won more than 5,000 races in his career, and his mounts earned more than $58 million. He was the leading rider during the inaugural meet at Lone Star in 1997.

* The Niner Account, who has won eight of his last nine starts, will be bidding for his fourth consecutive win Friday night in a two-other-than allowance race. In his last start, The Niner Account won a $15,000 starter at Oaklawn. Martin Lozano trains The Niner Account, who will be ridden by Cliff Berry.