07/03/2007 12:00AM

Jacinto glad he's back in comfort zone


Jockey John Jacinto is a native of Peru, but said he feels right at home at Louisiana Downs. He is back riding at the Bossier City, La., track this meet after spending last season in Kentucky. Jacinto leads the standings here, and will soon reach a milestone of 1,000 wins in North America.

With 47 wins, he entered the Louisiana Downs race week with a two-win lead over Carlos Gonzalez in the race for leading rider. Jacinto also leads all riders in mount earnings, with $879,295. For the 30-year-old Jacinto, who has won 983 races in this country since October 2000, it is shaping up as a meet to remember - not just for the numbers, and horses such as Middleweight, Tortuga Flats, and Ruckus, but also for the reception he has received since he has returned to Louisiana.

"I'm riding for everybody," he said. "When you come back, when you feel like everybody has open arms for you, it made me feel something different. It made me feel something special for these people. It made me feel part of the family at Louisiana Downs."

Jacinto launched his riding career in 1997 in Peru. He came to North America in 2000, making his first stop at Calder Race Course.

"I started in Miami and I came right over here," said Jacinto. "Sam David Sr. is the one who brought me here. I was at Calder, and we started to talk, and he told me I should come over here because his son was looking for a rider to ride for him. So, I didn't think twice."

Sam David Jr., a mainstay at Louisiana Downs, is one of many trainers who have long supported Jacinto. The rider has won three titles during his career, taking the Oaklawn championship in 2006, Louisiana Downs in 2005, and Sam Houston Race Park in 2002.

Jacinto, whose greatest national success came in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland with Dawn at War, said he returned to this region for a number of reasons. He said he has a home here, and he wanted to be close to his wife and 2-year-old daughter. Following the Louisiana Downs meet, he said he plans to ride at Fair Grounds.

Zarb's Dahar seeks third Cajun

Zarb's Dahar, a career earner of $453,125 who finished fourth to Venomous in the $50,000 Temperence Hill on June 23, will return to the Louisiana-bred ranks for his next start. Trainer Jim Hodges said the horse is being pointed for the $100,000 Cajun, a six-furlong race to be run July 21. The stakes is part of the Louisiana Downs Champions Day card. Zarb's Dahar twice has won the Cajun, in 2004 and 2005. Last year, he was second in the race to Meteor Impact.

Zarb's Dahar's younger full brother, Distinctly Zarb, will make his career debut in the ninth race Thursday. Distinctly Zarb, who is 3, shows some nice works for the maiden special weight race, which is restricted to horses bred in Louisiana. It will be run at seven furlongs. Hodges has given the mount to Cody Meche.

Cat Genius heads turf sprint

Cat Genius, who won the $50,000 Sam Houston Turf Sprint Cup in April, heads a field of nine sprinters in the fourth race, a $35,000 optional claimer at about five furlongs on turf. Cat Genius comes into the race off a second-place finish by a nose in an allowance at Lone Star Park on June 1. Trainer Bret Calhoun has given the mount to Gonzalez.

* Settler's Hawk should start as a top choice in the featured eighth race, a first-level allowance at about 1 1/16 miles on turf. Among his rivals are 14 3/4-length maiden winner Whitehouse Charlie.