06/12/2012 3:41PM

Lone Star Park: Pish closing in on Lone Star title


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Danny Pish has won 15 training titles in Texas, but none at Lone Star Park near Dallas, and that is something he hopes will change this meet. Pish moved within one win of the lead in the standings last weekend, and now trails only Bret Calhoun, the defending champ, heading into Thursday night’s races at Lone Star.

Pish, a 46-year-old native of Yoakum, Texas, operates one of the largest and most successful stables in the state. He has won 12 titles at Retama Park near San Antonio and three at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. But honors at Lone Star have eluded him, something he could turn around with a 50-horse division on the grounds. Pish has 30 wins at the meet – five of them coming last weekend – and also has had 20 second-place finishers this season in Grand Prairie.

“I’m trying to take dead aim on my first title at Lone Star,” he said. “I’m going to do what’s best for the horses, and let’s hope in doing so that it works out to my favor as well.

“I feel the meet has gone fairly well. There were a few second-place finishes – some of them photos – that if you change would make it an outstanding meet. It’s the type of game racing is, an inch here and inch there, and it’s an outstanding meet. I can recall about three races that were ridiculously close photos.”

Among Pish’s top horses at the meet is Safe Range, who won an optional $40,000 claimer May 28. He is now being pointed to the $50,000 Assault Stakes at Lone Star on July 7, Pish said. He also said Cougar Hollow, who won a first-level allowance in his last start June 2, will be considered for the Assault, a race Pish won four times with Goosey Moose.

Other horses Pish has eyeing upcoming stakes include Platinum Song and Validated Blarney, who are being pointed to their respective divisions of the $100,000-estimated Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity on Saturday.

Sommer’s Choice, winner of three of his last five starts, could develop into a candidate for the $100,000 Prelude for 3-year-olds at Louisiana Downs, where Pish has a division of 10 horses. The 1 1/16-mile race is Aug. 4. Sommer’s Choice is a son of Suave, while his stakes-winning dam, Gran Mujer, is a half-sister to the Grade 1 winner Mash One.

“He’s a horse we’ll possibly try in a straight 3-year-old stakes before long,” Pish said. “He’ll start in another allowance race, and if he performs well there, we’ll consider going to Shreveport with him and trying him in the Prelude.

“His races have been very visually impressive. He most recently finished third in a [7 1/2-furlong] allowance, and it appears he wants to run a little further than that.”

Pish is new to the Louisiana Downs meet this year as part of his stable’s move to branch out. Following the close of the Lone Star meet next month, he will send more horses to Louisiana Downs, and, for the third year in a row, he’ll set up a division at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. Pish also will be racing this fall at Retama.

“Texas is a much shorter, abbreviated circuit than it used to be,” he said. “I’ve kind of been spreading out to the surrounding states. I’ve been going to Remington Park for three years now, and I’ve been to New Orleans for three years and do plan on going back. And I’m definitely going to go back to Shreveport. There’s also a pretty good chance I’m going to go to Oaklawn with a few.”

Pish grew up competing on the rodeo circuit, with a concentration on bull riding. But he developed an interest in racing at a young age, when he watched the Triple Crown series of Affirmed and Alydar in 1978. Later on in life, Pish and his father went to tracks to buy Quarter Horses to retrain for rodeo events. Through contacts made, Pish went to work for Texas-based trainer Tommy Oliphant, helping develop young horses at his Sunny Clime Farm, including multiple Grade 3 winner El Amante and multiple stakes winner Our Royal Blue.

Pish won his first race as a trainer in 1995, and through Tuesday had 1,510 career wins from 9,223 starters for stable earnings of $20 million. The top horses he has trained include Boots On Sunday, Goosey Moose, and Leaving On My Mind, each of whom won seven stakes races, as well as stakes winners I’m Allthat, Agrivating General, Dynameaux, and Ernesto.

◗ A memorial service for Gilbert Ciavaglia, the veteran trainer who died earlier this month after a four-year battle with leukemia, will be held Friday at Lone Star. It will be at 10:30 a.m. in the chapel in the racing administration building, track chaplain Sam Spence said. Ciavaglia trained for more than 45 years. He was 73.

◗ Lone Star drew its largest-ever crowd for a post-race concert last Friday night, with 26,519 on hand to see the country artists the Eli Young Band. There are three more concerts this meet at Lone Star.