07/06/2012 4:09PM

Lone Star Park notes: Meet concludes Sunday, causing a problem for many horsemen


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Following the close of the Lone Star Park meet on Sunday, the Texas Thoroughbred racing calendar will become nearly dormant for three months. With the exception of a fair meet racing four weekends between July and August, there will be no major track in the state running Thoroughbreds until Retama Park near San Antonio opens on Oct. 5.

The schedule change is a new obstacle for the state’s horsemen, as Retama had run a mixed meet last year that opened July 29 and segued into a straight Thoroughbred meet Sept. 1. The calendar shift has led a large number of Texas regulars to look for racing opportunities in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

Ralph Arnold, a South Texas resident who ranks seventh in the trainer standings at Lone Star, is a perennial leader at Retama and while he will continue to race at his home track, he is sending 20 to 25 horses to Remington Park in Oklahoma City, which opens Aug. 10.

“It’s been 10 or 15 years since I’ve been there,” he said.

Arnold said he must ship out of state for reasons being echoed in many corners in Texas.

“Owners can’t afford to have horses in training unless there’s an opportunity for them to race,” he said. “It’s the reason we’re trying to get the race dates closer together in Texas.”

Richard Ketner, a former trainer who now works as an agent for Alfredo Contreras, annually a leading rider at Retama, noted the increased amount of expenses now facing Texas stables of all sizes. There are costs of shipping more frequently, setting up divisions at multiple tracks, or paying stall rent at training centers or tracks operating as them during downtime.

“It’s a tough deal on Texas horsemen to have this much time between meets,” he said.

Contreras, Ketner said, will head to Louisiana Downs, which races through Sept. 23.

“Alfredo and I will be over there starting next week,” he said, “and then we’ll go back to Retama.”

Until then, Thoroughbred horsemen who wish to remain in Texas and race will have the option of the Gillespie County Fair, a Class 3 track in Fredericksburg that operates an eight-date mixed meet for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. The meet opened Saturday, and will race on Sunday, as well as July 21-22, Aug. 11-12, and Aug. 25-26. It is about a five-hour ship from Lone Star to Gillespie.

Pish amping up runners in Louisiana

Danny Pish, who through Thursday had a two-win lead over Bret Calhoun in the Lone Star trainer standings, will soon be more active at the Louisiana Downs meet. He has a division of horses there already and said he plans to send about 15 more to the Bossier City, La., track next week, probably on Wednesday.

Those set to make the ship will include Sommer’s Choice, a winner on turf and dirt this meet at Lone Star who in his last start ran third in a second-level allowance on the grass June 24.

“I am going to try the Prelude with him,” Pish said of the $100,000 stakes for 3-year-olds run Aug. 4 at Louisiana Downs.

Pish also hopes to see some of his 2-year-olds develop into candidates for upcoming stakes at Louisiana Downs, among them Posilutely, who makes her career debut in the fifth race Sunday at Lone Star, a maiden special weight at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf. A similar race for colts run was Saturday, and Pish also had a runner in it.

“I’m hoping one or both of them are of stakes quality, and if so, they have the route grass stakes at Louisiana Downs,” said Pish.

In 2008, Pish sent out Posilutely’s half-sister, Meaux Speed, to run second in the Happy Ticket, a turf route for 2-year-olds on the Super Derby undercard at Louisiana Downs. Pish’s stable also includes Louisiana-bred stakes winner Heavenville, who was second in a Lone Star turf allowance June 30.

Pish said the remaining horses from his Lone Star division would head to Remington, while his Louisiana Downs runners would come back to Texas for the meet at Retama.

◗ Lone Star will focus on turf racing for its final card Sunday, with five of the nine races on the program to be run on the grass. The highlight is a first-level allowance at a mile and an eighth on turf. It goes as the seventh race. Among the leading contenders are Verne, a son of Unbridled’s Song and the four-time stakes-winning mare Somethinaboutbetty. Steve Asmussen trains Verne, a Triple Crown nominee, for Stonestreet Stables.