06/26/2003 12:00AM

Layoffs suit Desert Darby fine


To say Desert Darby runs well fresh is an understatement. Last year, he won the Assault Stakes at Lone Star Park in his first start following a nearly one-year layoff. This year, Desert Darby will be coming back from a seven-month layoff for the same $100,000 race for Texas-breds, which will be renewed Saturday.

The Assault anchors Stars of Texas Day, a program of five stakes worth $575,000 in which each of the races will be restricted, most to horses bred in Texas.

Those are the conditions for the Assault, a 1 1/16-mile race that also drew 2001 winner Lights on Broadway, as well as Agrivating General, winner of the $50,000 Premiere on opening night at Lone Star.

But the focus will be on Desert Darby. What are the chances of him scoring a second win in the Assault following another long layoff? Pretty good, if you ask his connections.

"He's training excellent," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Desert Darby for Ken Quirk. "I feel very good going into the race."

Desert Darby won two of the richest stakes for older Texas-breds last year. The first was the Assault, and the second was the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame on turf at Retama Park near San Antonio in October.

Desert Darby last raced on Dec. 7, when he finished seventh in the $275,000 National Thoroughbred Racing Association Great State Challenge at Sam Houston. For his comeback, he shows a series of endurance-minded works at Lone Star.

Corey Lanerie has the mount Saturday.

Lights on Broadway also will return from a long layoff for the Assault. He has been training well for his first start since Jan. 4, and figures to benefit from the return to statebred ranks and to racing two turns, as the richest wins of his career have come under those conditions. In all, Lights on Broadway has won 10 races and $411,745.

"He's been working good," said C.W. "Bubba" Cascio, who trains Lights on Broadway. "He's turned in a couple of [six-furlong works] in 1:11 and change. That indicates he's fit."

Cliff Berry has the mount for Joe McDermott and George Slater.

Agrivating General moves back to dirt, his best surface, after finishing fourth in a tough turf allowance at Lone Star on April 18. The last time he ran on the main track, he won the Premiere Stakes at a mile for statebreds April 3.

In his nine-race career, Agrivating General has finished first or second in all of his dirt races. Terry Stanton has the mount for Lonnie Bates and trainer Danny Pish.