10/09/2002 12:00AM

Lifelong buddies enter Hall

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Trainer C.W. "Bubba" Cascio and breeder Charles Graham, who met as teenagers more than 50 years ago, will be inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame together Saturday night at Retama Park.

The sold-out ceremony begins at 4 p.m., and will be followed by a full card of stakes worth a total of $500,000. Also being inducted are longtime trainer Tommy Oliphant, top Arabian breeder Joe Cassel, and stallions Staunch Avenger and Easy Jet.

Cascio, who trained Dash for Cash, arguably the most influential Quarter Horse in racing, and Graham, the only person to be elected president of both the Texas Thoroughbred Association and Texas Quarter Horse Association, were first introduced at Arrow Head Park in Houston.

"We met 54 years ago when I was 16," said Cascio. "I was a jockey, and he was out watching the races. It is a real thrill getting into the Hall of Fame the same year as Dr. Graham."

Cascio worked as a jockey for three years, then turned to training Quarter Horses and distinguished himself by conditioning 10 champions. His first was Rocket Wrangler, the champion 2-year-old colt in 1970, who later sired two-time World Champion Dash for Cash.

Dash for Cash won 21 of 25 starts, including back-to-back runnings of the prestigious Champion of Champions. He is considered one of the most important sires in the sport. Among his offspring are Dashingly, the all-time richest filly or mare with $1.7 million earnings. She was World Champion in 1983, and was also trained by Cascio.

"Dash for Cash has been the biggest highlight of my whole career," said Cascio.

Cascio, who survived a bout with diverticulitis in 1994, now trains Thoroughbreds full-time. The best in his barn is Lights on Broadway, who swept the two richest statebred dirt races for older horses last year and was named horse of the year in Texas.

Lights on Broadway recently resumed training after being freshened, and will try to win his third consecutive $100,000 Star of Texas at Sam Houston on Nov. 16.

For the induction ceremonies Saturday, more than 375 people are expected. The event raises funds for construction of a permanent Hall of Fame building at Retama. Since the first class was inducted in 1999, about $500,000 has been raised. Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2003.

Lovato headed to Santa Anita

Anthony Lovato, who ranks fourth in the Louisiana Downs standings, left the track on Wednesday to ride in Southern California on a regular basis. He plans to finish out the current meet at Santa Anita, then shift his tack to Hollywood Park.

The move will be a homecoming for the 32-year-old Lovato.

"I have family out there, and lived there a good portion of my life, and thought I might like to go back and try it," said Lovato. "I rode there in 1991."

Lovato has been one of the top jockeys in this region the last few years. He won the 2000 riding title at Louisiana Downs, and for the past two years has been the runner-up at Lone Star Park. Lovato also was the second-leading rider this year at Oaklawn.

* Broodmare prospects Total Delight and Nature's Cove brought bids of $7,000 each to top a mixed sale put on by the Breeders Sales Company of Louisiana on Tuesday. A total of 55 mares sold for an average of $2,255 each, while the 14 weanlings that sold averaged $2,350, and the nine horses of racing age, $867.

* Gerard Melancon won with all five of his mounts Saturday at Louisiana Downs, including the $30,000 Majorette with Princess Jen ($14.40), to improve his lead in the standings to 87 wins, 13 more than runner-up Kirk LeBlanc.

* Roger Warren of Alabama beat out 129 other contestants to win a qualifier for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA Handicapping Championship at Sam Houston on Saturday.