10/21/2003 12:00AM

Jockey Beasley back home in Houston to stay


Jockey Jeremy Beasley has come home. After years of competing in the East and Midwest, Beasley has returned to Sam Houston Race Park, where he will be a leading candidate to win the riding title during the 93-date meet that opens Thursday.

Beasley was born in Houston, and as a teenager he went to work as a custodian in the Sam Houston paddock. The job afforded him the chance to talk to a number of jockeys, and after learning the ropes as an exercise rider, he launched his career.

"I'd hear from a million people every day, 'You'll never make it,' " said Beasley, 23. "I had to push."

Beasley remained focused. He registered his first win at Lone Star Park in 1998, then hit his stride later that year at Sam Houston, where he led the standings by many wins before leaving the meet early after being recruited to ride in New York. From there, Beasley went on to compete in Kentucky, Florida, and Illinois.

He won stakes with such horses as Thunder Bertie, Swept Away, and Dancing Guy, and also had the chance to ride major stakes winners Outofthebox and Best of the Rest.

Earlier this year, Beasley decided to return home to Texas, and he rode the final weeks of the Sam Houston meet while picking up a number of mounts from leading trainer Steve Asmussen. Beasley then headed to Lone Star, then Retama Park, where he ran away with the title during the meet that ended Sunday.

Now, he has his sights set on the entire Sam Houston meet, and thoughts of traveling the country seem far behind him. "I got it out of my system," said Beasley. "I proved to myself that I could do good on the tougher circuits in Kentucky and New York. I'm happy being in one spot with people that I love. I think I ride better when I'm happier. This is home for me."

Beasley has bought a house in the Houston area and is now married with two small children. As he seeks his first Sam Houston title, he will be part of a colony that includes newcomer Kerwin Clark, as well as Roman Chapa, John Jacinto, Don Simington, and Terry Stanton.

Asmussen seeks fourth title

Asmussen is in a position to set a couple of records at Sam Houston. He will be shooting for a record fourth title at the track this meet, and in the process figures to become the all-time win leader at Sam Houston.

Amos Laborde currently tops that list, with 245 wins at Sam Houston, but Asmussen ranks a close second with 236. Asmussen is already the track's all-time leader in purses won, with more than $3 million, and for the past three years has won concurrent titles at Sam Houston and Fair Grounds.

Other trainers expected for the meet are Danny Pish (who won his fifth training title at Retama on Sunday), Tommie Morgan, John Locke, Andrew Konkoly, Paul Duhon; Henry Johnson, and Larry Mayo, who is invading from Kentucky.

Durant returns with 40 horses

Trainer Jack Bruner will have 40 horses in training at Sam Houston for owner Tom Durant, who has not been based at the track since 1998. Durant moved his stable back into this region earlier this year, and on Sunday picked up the leading owner title at Retama.

Among his best horses are stakes winners Kool Humor and Most Feared, as well as the promising Book Note, who won a Retama allowance by more than nine lengths last Friday. Book Note could move into stakes company soon, Durant said.

Kool Humor is being pointed for the Grade 3, $150,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park on Nov. 16, while Most Feared is set to run with fellow Texas-breds in the $100,000 Star of Texas at Sam Houston on Nov. 15, said Durant.

Entries held open extra day

Entries for the opening card at Sam Houston were scheduled to close Monday, but because of some short fields, they were held open until Tuesday. Officials were able to draw the card by 9 a.m., and they also expected to have fields in place for the Friday card as scheduled on Tuesday.

This year, there is a shorter turnaround time between the end of Retama and the start of Sam Houston, but the horse population seems strong. For example, Sam Houston had requests for more stalls than the 1,200 that were available. "I've still got 500 horses on hold trying to come in," said Eric Johnston, racing secretary at Sam Houston.

The feature Thursday is a five-furlong turf allowance for fillies and mares, topped by Sues Hay.