06/01/2012 4:13PM

Lone Star Park: Contreras returns to Texas after stint in Saudi Arabia


Jockey Alfredo Contreras has been a mainstay at tracks in Texas and Louisiana the past five years. But the mounts he has on Sunday’s card at Lone Star Park will be his first this year in North America.

Contreras, a 27-year-old native of Mexico, had an opportunity to ride in Saudi Arabia through the fall and into the spring. He was under contract to Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud al Kabeer, and Contreras said he rode at the racetrack in Rwah, Saudi Arabia.

“They invite riders to ride up there for six months or seven months,” he said. “I wanted a different racing experience. If you ask me again, I’ll go. It was a good experience.

“I learned a lot – how the people there live, the difference of how they ride up there. The way they do racing up there, it’s different than here. I learned their culture a little bit. And the racing, they don’t care about money. They care about prestige. Like if someone has a nice car. Another guy goes and gets a [better] car. That’s how they do it up there.”

Contreras was introduced to the idea of riding in Saudi Arabia by jockey Aaron Gryder, who a few years back was based at Lone Star.

“He was going up there every year to ride some races,” Contreras said. “When he was here one meet, he told me about it. At the end of the meet, he asked me if I would like to go up there. They were looking for a rider. That’s how everything got started. They checked all my records, as far as how I was doing, and liked it and invited me. They did a little research before they took me up there. I guess I was one of the lucky ones.”

Contreras was leading the standings at Retama Park near San Antonio when he left to go to Saudia Arabia. He said it was late October, with the meet nearly over at Retama. He recently returned to the United States and after taking care of some personal business in Mexico is set to ride the remainder of the Lone Star meet.

Contreras launched his career riding Quarter Horses, because his father and uncles raced the breed in Mexico. The rider eventually transitioned to Thoroughbreds and has ridden at tracks throughout Texas and at Louisiana Downs and Delta Downs. He also has ridden some at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and in Indiana, Wyoming, and Montana.

“Ever since I remember, I’ve been with horses,” Contreras said. “I started grooming them, cleaning stalls. I can ride either Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds and Arabians, and I got to ride some Arabians in Saudi Arabia.”

On Sunday, Contreras has mounts in the fourth, sixth, and seventh races at Lone Star.

Full field in Lone Star feature

A full field of 12 horses has been entered in the featured seventh race at Lone Star, a second-level allowance at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. The race will be the first grass start for Mr. Midnight, who was set to run on the lawn last time but his race was moved to the main track. His sire gets 9 percent turf winners, while his dam has produced a turf winner. Cliff Berry has the mount for trainer Bret Calhoun.

The field also includes Beachcombing who has placed in three stakes in his career, including the Jersey Derby on the grass last July at Monmouth Park. He won a first-level allowance at Lone Star in his most recent start April 14 and was flattered when the second- and fifth-place finishers returned to win their next starts. Roman Chapa has the mount for trainer Cody Autrey.

Also in the field is the comebacking Que Deseo, who will be making his first start since finishing second in a $25,000 optional claimer at Retama Park in November. He is a half-brother to the retired racemare Wasted Tears, a Grade 2 winner who earned more than $970,000.

◗ Amazing Saint, a former $7,500 claimer who won a restricted stakes at Delta Downs in her last start March 17, will be seeking her seventh win from her last 10 starts in the featured eighth race at Louisiana Downs on Sunday. The $20,000 optional claimer is for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs. Amazing Saint won at the distance at Churchill Downs in November.