07/30/2003 12:00AM

Introducing the 49er double

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Retama Park, which begins a 48-night meet Friday, has never been afraid to try something different. When the track near San Antonio, Texas, opened in 1995, it introduced two turf route stakes for 2-year-olds. A few years later, takeout on its pick three wagers was reduced from 25 percent to 12 percent.

Those ideas have since become signatures for the track, and this year, a new one will be tested: the 49er Daily Double.

The bet gives Retama, which has only had an early double, something of a late one by linking the fourth and ninth races. The idea is to get the public interested early, while tying the bet to the feature. The 49er, which on Friday will link a conditioned claimer and the $35,000 J.R. Straus Memorial, was the brainchild of trainer Danny Pish.

"We're going to try it and see what happens," said Bryan Brown, chief executive officer of Retama.

Retama is Pish's hometrack. He has won the past four titles here, and heads a stable area expected to be filled to capacity through the end of the meet Oct. 19.

"I think this is the best meet [response] we've ever had in terms of number and quality of horses," said Brown.

Larry Craft, the track's director of racing, said he received requests for 1,800 stalls. The track can hold 1,200.

"The barn area will be full," he said.

Craft added that interest in Retama extends to the El Joven and La Senorita, the 2-year-old turf races which will top a $1.1 million stakes schedule. Nominations are up from last year, with 66 colts and geldings eligible for the El Joven and 59 fillies the La Senorita.

The races will be run at a mile on turf Aug. 30. Both are worth $100,000.

"They've been a good thing for us from day one," said Craft. "In this part of the country, for people who buy or raise 2-year-olds with distance pedigree and grass pedigree, it's the first opportunity to run in a [tailored] stakes."

Past winners include multiple stakes winners Keene Dancer, Doublethebetwice, Quick Lap, and Swearingen.

Allowance preps for this year's El Joven and La Senorita are scheduled for Aug. 8 and 9.

Other stakes of note this season include the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame for statebreds, 3-year-olds and up, at 1 1/16 miles on turf Oct. 4. The race is one of seven restricted Thoroughbred stakes on Texas Hall of Fame night. Together, the races are worth $490,000, and they complement inductions into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, which is located at Retama.

Those to be enshrined during a gala before the races are Willard Proctor, Cash Asmussen, Allen Bogan, Ott Adams, Two Altazano, and Three Ohs.

In the Straus, to be run over six furlongs, Front Nine and That Tat, who finished a neck apart in second and third last out in the $50,000 Kings Court at Louisiana Downs, will renew their rivalry. Also in the six-horse field is Wild Pro.

Daily purses this meet will average $100,000.