11/19/2002 1:00AM

Leo's Last Hurrahy to point for La. Derby

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HOUSTON - Leo's Last Hurrahy, who successfully mastered two turns Saturday night with a convincing win against open company in the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile, will skip the inaugural running of the $275,000 Great State Challenge Juvenile at Sam Houston on Dec. 7. Instead, Leo's Last Hurrahy will be freshened for a 3-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds that his connections hope will include the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 9.

His next start will come in either the $100,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds on Jan. 25, or that track's Grade 3, $150,000 Risen Star on Feb. 16.

"The horse needs a little break, and this is the only time on the calendar we can give him one," said Bob Young, who trains Leo's Last Hurrahy for owner Ken Murphy.

Leo's Last Hurrahy, a son of Leo Castelli, has won five of his seven starts this season for earnings of $326,848. The Texan Juvenile was his third stakes win and his first victory around two turns.

"He pulled up like it was a walk in the park," Young said. "That's why I think he has a big future. The farther he goes, the easier it is on him."

Texan Juvenile runner-up Worker Man will also be pointed to the 3-year-old series at Fair Grounds, said Tony Bedford, racing manager for owner Bobby Beck.

Meanwhile, third-place finisher Zydeco Affair will return to turf for his next start, which could come in either the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Park Derby at Calder Race Course on Jan. 1, or the Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 11, trainer Tony Richey said. The colt is a two-time winner on turf, including the $75,000 Manila at Arlington Park.

The Texan Juvenile has a reputation for producing top 3-year-olds, among them 2000 winner Fifty Stars, who won the 2001 Louisiana Derby, and Private Emblem, who finished third in the 2001 Texan Juvenile and won this year's Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby.

Lone Star to make $7.8 million in improvements

Lone Star Park near Dallas is set to begin making $7.8 million in improvements in preparation for the 2004 Breeders' Cup. The track has a three-phase plan in place that was to be unveiled Wednesday during a ground-breaking ceremony in the stable area.

Phase one includes the construction of three barns, with two of themhousing 50 stalls, and the other, 100. The track also plans to construct 100 dormitory rooms on the backstretch, and two recreation areas. On the front side, there are plans to put canvas covering over the current apron seats.

Longterm, the capital improvement plan calls for increasing the seating capacity at the track to more than 50,000.

The first phase of improvements is scheduled to be complete in April 2003.

Easyfromthegitgo heads Asmussen contingent

Easyfromthegitgo, who won the $250,000 Iowa Derby in July, is one of five horses trainer Steve Asmussen is pointing for the inaugural Great State Challenge, a six-race series that matches statebreds from around the country for total purses of $1.65 million. Invitations for the races will be issued on Nov. 25.

Asmussen, who has a string of horses at Sam Houston, said the Kentucky-bred Easyfromthegitgo is training toward the $275,000 Classic. For the $275,000 Juvenile, the trainer has graded stakes winner Posse, who was also bred in Kentucky.

Asmussen also hopes to start stakes winners Souris, bred in Kentucky, and Hannah's Royalrock, bred in Texas, in the $275,000 Juvenile Fillies. Desert Darby, who won the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame in October, has been selected - based on a points system - to represent Texas in the $275,000 Turf. Pre-entries for the Great State Challenge are on Nov. 29.

Rare Cure, Parting eye Great State

Rare Cure, who won the $100,000 Star of Texas on Saturday night at Sam Houston, will make his next start in the Great State Challenge Classic, trainer Joe Petalino said.

Another top Texas-bred possibility for the Great State is Parting, considered the divisional leader among 2-year-old fillies in Texas. She is set to run in the Grade 3, $100,000 Valley Stream at Aqueduct on Sunday. With a good performance, Parting will ship to Texas for Juvenile Fillies, said part-owner Stephanie Preston.

Handle, attendance up for Champions Day

Handle and attendance for Texas Champions Day were both up over last year, giving the track momentum heading into the Great State Challenge.

Sam Houston handled $2,901,619 on the 11-race Texas Champions Day card, compared to $2,856,979 on the corresponding program a year ago. Ontrack attendance was 10,822, up from last year's draw of 10,482.

"We expect attendance to be 50 percent higher [than Texas Champions Day] for the Great State Challenge," track president Bob Bork said.