10/21/2003 11:00PM

LeBlanc spreading success around


It's not easy for a jockey to lead the standings at Louisiana Downs if he does not regularly ride for one of the meet's two powerhouse trainers, Cole Norman or Steve Asmussen, but that's exactly what Kirk LeBlanc is doing at the Bossier City, La., track.

Going into the races on Thursday, LeBlanc had an 87-83 lead in the standings over defending champ Gerard Melancon. He is working to secure his second Louisiana Downs title, having won his first in 2001.

LeBlanc has a large following among Louisiana horsemen, and if he does not know a particular trainer, it's likely that his agent, Tony Martin, does. It is that vast network of contacts, coupled with the rider's ability, that has kept LeBlanc prominent in the standings all meet.

"I ride for just about everybody," he said. "I don't have one big outfit that I ride for here. Tony does a super job."

LeBlanc and Martin have worked together for about 10 years. Both are respected throughout Louisiana, where LeBlanc, 35, has spent the bulk of his riding career since he took out his license in 1985.

LeBlanc has won seven stakes this season - tied for the most at the meet with Melancon. He is winning with 28 percent of his mounts on 2-year-olds, and through last Sunday had won an impressive 16 juvenile races, more than any other rider at Louisiana Downs.

"My agent, that goes back to him," said LeBlanc.

For his part, LeBlanc has long had a reputation for being one of the most capable riders in the region. Following the current meet, he will move to Delta Downs.

"It will be the first year I've gone [there]," said LeBlanc, who had spent his past winters at Fair Grounds. "The purses are good."

After the Delta meet, LeBlanc and his fiancee, jockey Jerri Nichols, will get married in April.

Nichols herself has had a strong season at Louisiana Downs, where she regularly wins with double-digit horses. She will also spend the winter at Delta.

Zydeco Affair on turf again in feature

LeBlanc has the mount on Zydeco Affair in the featured ninth race Friday at Louisiana Downs. The colt will be returning to turf for the 1 1/16-mile optional claimer, which drew seven others, including Best of KC.

The surface move should suit Zydeco Affair, who won the $100,000 El Joven at Retama and the $75,0000 Manila at Arlington on turf last year as a 2-year-old. In a switch Friday, Zydeco Affair will remove blinkers, a high-percentage equipment change for his trainer, Larry Robideaux Jr. David Beard owns Zydeco Affair, who has earned $210,002.

Best of KC is the highest earner in the field with a bankroll of $265,842, and he could go favored on the heels of his third-place finish in a tough turf allowance last out. Jamie Theriot has the mount for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

Claiming activity constant

So far this Louisiana Downs meet, there have been 101 horses claimed for total receipts of $1,122,000. The highest-priced claim has been Gigi's Skyflyer, a half-sister to stakes winner Voladora, taken for $35,000 by Team Valor.

The average claim price has been $11,108.

The figures are consistent with last year's numbers, when the average claim was $10,919 and 121 horses were claimed during the meet for $1,321,250. The highest-priced claim was last year was Foolish Fire, who was taken for $40,000 by owner-trainer Brent Davidson.

* The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Sales Company has cataloged 120 yearlings, horses of racing age, and broodmares to its winter mixed sale. The auction will be held at 10 a.m. Central at Delta Downs on Nov. 2.

* Sam Houston Race Park's request to open an application period for racetrack licenses in Webb County, Texas, in which Laredo is located, was granted during a Texas Racing Commission meeting on Tuesday. The period will run for 60 days beginning Dec. 1.