01/25/2008 1:00AM

Leparoux's business getting back on track

Email

NEW ORLEANS - When trainer Patrick Biancone was suspended, jockey Julien Leparoux began looking for a new place to ride for the winter.

Although he continued to be successful at Churchill Downs even without Biancone's patronage, he chose not to return to Turfway Park, where he has won numerous titles, looking instead for a warmer place to winter.

Leparoux's first attempt at creating a new business for himself, at Santa Anita, was complicated by the disruption of racing there caused by extensive rain, and he has arrived in New Orleans looking to carve out a niche for himself in a crowded jockey colony.

"I just want to ride," said Leparoux. "I didn't have that much business at Santa Anita, and they had trouble with the track."

Leparoux, 24, moved to the United States from France four years ago, and quickly became a fixture on the Kentucky circuit, winning nine riding titles between Churchill, Keeneland and Turfway

"I knew some people from France who were already here," said Leparoux. "We got a good meet at Turfway when I was an apprentice, and I haven't gone down since then."

Though the attempt at Santa Anita produced some mounts, the uncertainty made it a difficult time to build clientele.

Leparoux's agent, Steve Bass, left open the possibility of a return to California.

"The timing wasn't right at Santa Anita," said Bass. "We went out there to race, and we weren't going to have a chance to ride."

Things have gone well at the Fair Grounds, with Leparoux winning three times from 16 mounts as of the end of Thursday's card.

"Trainers here have been very receptive," said Bass. "We're back to riding on a regular basis, with people we know from Kentucky."

Trainers discuss Leparoux as a "wizard on the grass," but there haven't been many turf races at the Fair Grounds in the past few weeks, with weather taking most of the races off the turf.

"I always say that wherever the horse likes to run, the jockey is good," said Leparoux. "Maybe the trainers see me as a turf rider, but I still win races on dirt."

When the New Orleans meet is over, Leparoux plans to return to the Kentucky circuit.

"I love Kentucky," said Leparoux. "I love the Kentucky lifestyle. It is like the countryside in France."

A step up for Pectoralis Major

She likes the New Orleans turf, she likes the distance, and she's been training well. The step up in class is the question Pectoralis Major must answer as she tries to make it two in a row in Sunday's ninth race, a second-level optional claiming race, going about a mile on the turf, for a purse of $41,000.

"Her last race was the best I've ever seen her run," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "She's moving up a step in class, but she's done well between races."

In her last race, she came from off the pace to defeat a field of nine, coming home 3 1/2 lengths in front.

Since that race, she has worked three times, breezing half-miles, the same way she prepped for her last victory.

While Pierce has done all he can to get her ready, his and others trainers' plans may be foiled by the weather. With rain predicted again for Saturday, Sunday's race may be moved from the turf, in which case Pierce will likely scratch her from the race.

If the race comes off the turf, Spontaneous looks to benefit, having run decently in her last two when they came off the turf. She will be shortening up a sixteenth of a mile off her last, and the combination of better conditioning and a shorter distance may prove enough for the victory.

If the race stays on the turf, and Block finds a spot in the field, she looks to be ready. Trainer Al Stall has been trying to get her back into a race since the opening weekend's Pago Hop, and she should be ready to fire.