05/10/2006 12:00AM

Lincoln meet highlighted by purse hikes

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Harrah's Louisiana Downs
Watchem Smokey has scored all three of his stakes wins this year at Evangeline Downs.

Racing returns to the state capital on Friday evening, when the Lincoln State Fair launches its 37-day meet, which runs through July 16.

Fans will be greeted by a new mobile toteboard from United Tote located in the infield. United Tote has taken over operations here from AmTote and will accommodate ontrack account wagering. Bettors make their wagers using a card that transfers funds via computer and tracks their bets.

Horsemen will be competing for a purse schedule supplemented by over $750,000 from the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The bottom purse will be $5,000 and ranges up to $10,500 for second-level allowance races. The stakes schedule also received a boost to a minimum of $15,000-guaranteed and will be topped by the $25,000-added Capitol City Futurity on closing day for 2-year-olds.

David Anderson returns to defend his training title here after winning his sixth career training title this spring at Fonner Park. R. D. Williams returns to defend his jockey title here after winning his 10th career title at Fonner Park.

Also in the riding colony will be regulars Dennis Collins, Armando Martinez, Jerry Carkeek, and Alex Granda. Yuri Yaranga arrived in Nebraska this week after a very successful winter in Ohio. He will be joined by Newil Wall, who resumes riding for the first time in over two years. Dan Beck, injured in a pair of spills at Fonner, said he intends to make a comeback soon, as does Mike Luark, who suffered a concussion late in the Fonner meet.

The racing department is headed by racing secretary Wayne Anderson, who succeeds Dennis Kochevar, who moves into the stewards' stand.

Racing will be conducted on a Friday through Sunday basis, with the additional days of May 18, July 8, July 15, and July 22. There is holiday racing on Monday, May 29; Monday, July 3; and Tuesday, July 4. Post time will be 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. The track will card eight races on Thursdays and at least nine races for other days.

Evangeline Downs

Unlike the great John Henry, who won his first stakes race at the old Evangeline Downs before going on to bigger and better things, never to return to Louisiana, Watchem Smokey has proven this year that you can go home again.

Watchem Smokey's latest conquest came last Saturday night in, fittingly enough, the John Henry Stakes. Not only did he win, he shattered the track record by a full second. The John Henry was the third stakes win this year for Watchem Smokey, 6, all at Evangeline Downs.

An Oklahoma-bred son of Alphabet Soup, Watchem Smokey was purchased as a yearling in an Arkansas mixed sale in the spring of 2001 by Cecil Borel for $4,700. Borel campaigned Watchem Smokey through a 2-for-2 juvenile campaign at Louisiana Downs. As a 3-year-old, Watchem Smokey won his first two starts, both at Oaklawn Park, before taking an optional claiming event at Lone Star. Returning to Louisiana Downs, he then won the Airline Stakes, before Borel sold him privately to an owner for whom Bobby Frankel trains.

"We kind of lost track of him after he left Louisiana," said Carrol Castille, Watchem Smokey's present owner. "I know he went down in a nasty spill going down the hill at Santa Anita a couple of years ago, and then on Derby Day of last year he resurfaced at Churchill. We were looking to claim something to bring back here to run in some stakes, so I had Bernie Flint drop the claim in on him for the $100,000.

"You never know when you claim off Frankel, but we took a shot, and it has worked out great. He has performed phenomenally for us this year."

Brandon Marks now trains Watchem Smokey. Marks continues to win races at a high clip during the spring meet after enjoying a solid winter season. Castille said his plans for Watchem Smokey call for a possible trip to Lone Star, as well as a start at Louisiana Downs.

- Jeff Taylor

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park ran a special afternoon program last Saturday to coincide with the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby, and the announced attendance was over 7,500. In addition to watching the festivities that took place at Churchill Downs, fans witnessed some of the fastest locally stabled runners compete in two races on the Fairmount program.

In a $10,000 open allowance going four furlongs, Peace and Joy ($8.80) notched his third consecutive win of the meet, covering the distance in 45.80 seconds, just .20 off the track record. Don Manuel, the odds-on favorite who was also seeking his third straight win, finished five lengths behind in third.

Later on the card, Knowwhatimean came back on a week's rest to win a $19,000 open handicap by 6 1/2 lengths. He finished in 1:09.60 for six furlongs and earned a meet-high Beyer Speed Figure of 95. Third the previous Saturday in the Chicagoland Handicap at Hawthorne, Knowwhatimean won for the second time in three starts this year. He also won his season debut at Fairmount in a high-end allowance on March 25.

- Vance Hanson

Great Lakes Downs

Jockey Terry Houghton wasted no time getting back to his winning ways, opening the Great Lakes Downs meet by winning the early daily double with Camp Counselor ($4) and the veteran Breakaway Quietly ($5). Houghton came back on the second night and won three consecutive races: Ground Game ($6.40) won the second, Rainbow Sally ($6.40) won the third, and Phyls Jr ($26) won the fourth. Houghton added a win on Clear Power ($5.40) in Tuesday's eighth race and leads the jockey standings with six wins.

Joe Judice is in second with four wins, followed by Mary Doser and apprentice Jareth Loveberry, who have three each.

Trainer Bob Gorham, a Kalamazoo veterinarian, leads the trainer standings with four wins, including three on Monday evening's card.

Trainer Denis Cluley and jockey Julie Veltman teamed for a double on Tuesday evening's card, winning the fifth race with Beau Aunter ($11.20) and the nightcap with Dave's Cahill Boy ($27). Both are owned by Cluley.

- C.A. Shoemaker

River Downs

Fans got another peek at a rising star last Thursday, when Fight Girl, a 3-year-old filly, won a second-level statebred allowance by five lengths. The victory was the third in nine starts for Fight Girl, who was second in the Tah Dah and Miss Ohio stakes last season.

The primary goal for most statebred fillies with established class is the Queen City Oaks at 1 1/8 miles, which will be renewed at River Downs on July 22. Although Fight Girl has yet to race around two turns, her pedigree suggests stretching out should not be a problem. Fight Girl is by Fit to Fight, who swept the New York handicap triple in 1984, out of a mare by Flamingo Stakes winner Cherokee Colony.

Three-year-old statebred fillies will kick off the River Downs stakes schedule next Saturday, May 20, in the $50,000 Tomboy at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

* The track was plagued by frequent rain the first several weeks of the meet, during which only one turf race went off as scheduled. But six turf races were run at River Downs between Saturday and Tuesday. The richest, a $16,700 open allowance on Sunday, went to The Potters Hand, who won by 1 1/4 lengths. The victory was the fourth in seven turf starts for The Potters Hand, a potential player in next month's Sydney Gendelman Memorial, in which he was fourth last year.

- Vance Hanson

Sam Houston

The Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity for Quarter Horses is the highlight of a 30-race stakes schedule to be run during Sam Houston Race Park's annual meet for Quarter Horses. The season will open on June 23 and run for 38 days, through Sept. 9.

The $100,000-added Sam Houston Futurity is a 400-yard race to be run Sept. 8. Another stakes of note is the Grade 2, $50,000-added Sam Houston Classic for 3-year-olds and up on Sept. 1.

The Texas Summer Showdown on July 28 will feature four stakes for Quarter Horses. It is run the same weekend as the Texas Quarter Horse Association's annual yearling sale at Sam Houston.

Sam Houston has set a 7 p.m. Central post time on Fridays and Saturdays and a 1:30 p.m. post for Sundays. Among the trainers expected for the meet are Janet VanBebber, Kenneth Roberts, and Heath Taylor.

In all, the stakes program will be worth more than $930,000.

- Mary Rampellini

Thistledown

A competitive field of six fillies and mares will meet over six furlongs Friday in the fifth running of the $30,000 Bill's Fancy Handicap.

Trainer William R. Connelly ships in Fly Away Angel, a 5-year-old Skip Away mare who finished eighth in a one-mile turf allowance at Keeneland in her last start April 15. In five starts at Turfway Park this winter, she finished third against allowance company three times and fifth, beaten four lengths, in the one-mile Likely Exchange Stakes. Fly Away Angel has a strong late kick, as she displayed when she won a six-furlong allowance race at Mountaineer Park in October, and although all her races this year have been at a mile or longer, she will be very hard to deal with in this spot. Leading rider Scott Spieth has the mount.

Faithful Flyer has won 5 of 9 starts here and will probably be the pacesetter. She began the year in midseason form for trainer Jose Atala when she scored a four-length win over allowance sprinters following a five-month rest. She will be ridden by F.Munaylla.

* Jeff Radosevich, Ohio's winningest trainer and ranked in the top 20 nationally last year, has maintained a high winning percentage this year, winning with 15 of his 56 starters (27 percent) here since April 14 and with 37 of his 148 starters (25 percent) at Mountaineer Park since Jan. 14.

Scott Spieth, who rides first call for Radosevich, leads the riders with 15 wins from 66 starts. Luis Gonzalez Jr. is second with 9 wins.

* Jockeys Tommy Meyers and Randy Wilson, two longtime Thistledown regulars, have returned to the saddle after being out with injuries since last June.

- Chuck Scaravilli

Will Rogers Downs

Trainer Martin Lozano's stable has one of the highest win percentages in this region, so it is no surprise to find him dominating the Will Rogers Downs meet in Claremore, Okla. He has won with 26 of 76 starters, 16 more than the second-leading trainer, Zachary Armstrong.

Lozano has a 28-horse stable at Will Rogers, and he looks to keep his barn's momentum going through the end of the meet, May 28.

"We're going to try to enter in every race we can to finish pretty strong," said Lozano.

Lozano, who has another 24 horses in training at Lone Star Park, has developed a promising 3-year-old filly this meet in Superior Court. She has won 2 of 3 starts at Will Rogers, her latest an optional claiming race over older rivals. Alex Jimenez has ridden Superior Court in each of her local starts. She races for Gary Owens.

Owens also owns Jettin Affirmed, who earlier this meet won a six-furlong allowance in a sharp 1:08.40 for Lozano. Jettin Affirmed is a son of Affirmed and out of Explosive Kate, a five-time stakes winner of $310,402.

Another popular horse for Owens and Lozano is stakes winner The Niner Account, who is on vacation and will return during the Remington Park meet, said Lozano. In his last start, The Niner Account was second to Bang in the $50,000 Budweiser Handicap at Sunland Park on Jan. 28.

- Mary Rampellini