08/12/2003 11:00PM

Lac Laronge hard to look past


It's tough to get past Lac Laronge in the $60,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Friday. Lac Laronge has taken his game to another level in recent months, and should be a solid favorite in the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds bred in Louisiana.

Lac Laronge drew attention to himself in May when he won a $60,000 optional claiming race with authority, beating a deep field of colts at Lone Star Park. From there, he finished third behind the undefeated Watchem Smokey in the $50,000 Airline at Louisiana Downs before winning his first stakes in the $50,000 Arcadia for statebreds on July 20.

He raced close to the pace in that race and won by 2 3/4 lengths, covering six furlongs in a sharp 1:10.60.

"The other day he was much the best," said Troy Young, who trains Lac Laronge for Valene Farms. "Since then he's been training well and eating well."

Young believes seven furlongs might prove to be Lac Laronge's best distance based on his powerful win at 6 1/2 furlongs at Lone Star. The colt will break from the rail Friday, which is a good post for him, according to Young. He will be ridden by Gerard Melancon.

Others in the Erwin, which has not been run since 1999, include stakes winners Zarb's Music, Mike n' Doc, and Lota Prince.

Ketel One to sponsor El Joven

Ketel One, a brand of vodka made in Holland, has purchased the naming rights to the $100,000 El Joven, which is the top stakes race during the Thoroughbred meet at Retama Park near San Antonio. The one-mile turf stakes for 2-year-olds will be run on Aug. 30.

Ketel One started a relationship with Retama in May. The company sponsors parties at the track and also advertises on its simulcast network. Retama has even developed a special drink featuring Ketel One.

"They liked the idea of attaching their name to a race that receives national recognition," said Doug Vair, spokesman for Retama Park.

Ketel One is the first title sponsor of a Retama stakes race, according to Vair. The popular El Joven, which has been won by quality colts such as Keene Dancer, has attracted 66 nominations for this year's running.

The race will share a card with the $100,000 La Senorita.

Beau's Town due back Wednesday

Trainer Cole Norman said Beau's Town, winner of the Grade 2, $200,000 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup last month at Del Mar, is scheduled to return to Louisiana Downs on Wednesday.

The gelding was given a month's vacation in Southern California. When he gets back into town, he will begin serious preparations for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in October.

"He loves it out there," Norman said. "He's eating well, and he looks good. Now he needs to get back to work."

Beau's Town has won 4 of 5 starts this year, all stakes races. He races for Dave Hulkewicz and Bobby Beck, both of Texas.

Route next for Mr. Jester

Mr. Jester, who was up in time for a neck win in the $50,000 Pioneer at 5 1/2 furlongs at Louisiana Downs on Sunday, will likely stretch out around two turns for his next start, said his trainer, Steve Wren.

"He's been begging me to send him a route of ground," said Wren, who trains Mr. Jester for Hays and Kaaren Biggs.

The Pioneer win was a meaningful one for Wren because Hays Biggs had been terminally ill and died Tuesday.

"He went out a stakes winner," Wren said. "It was an emotional race from that standpoint."

Mr. Jester is by Silver Deputy, the same sire of one of Biggs's best colts, Etbauer. Earlier this month, Etbauer had his first winner as a sire when Billy Etbauer won his debut for Biggs and Wren on Aug. 1.

* Handle on Louisiana Downs has averaged $2,486,599 a day through last Wednesday, which is a 7 percent increase over the same period a year ago, said Ray Tromba, general manager of Louisiana Downs.

* Chauffe Au Rouge, who broke his own course record at Retama last Saturday night when he defended his title in the $50,000 Retama Park Turf Breeders' Cup Handicap, will be considered for the $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap on Sept. 21, said his trainer, Cole Norman.