04/19/2011 1:02PM

Lone Star Park: Texas Mile coming up fast

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Friesan Fire, with Gabriel Saez riding, wins the 2009 Louisiana Derby.

Thursday evening’s racing at Lone Star Park is largely devoid of quality, with eight of the nine races being claiming or maiden claiming contests, and the other race being a 2-year-old dash for Texas-bred straight maidens.

But by Saturday much better horses will be filling the Lone Star Park starting gate, when the track stages one of its best racing days of meet, capped by the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile and two other stakes.

Trainer Steve Asmussen plans to run two graded stakes winners in the Texas Mile: 2009 Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire and Thiskyhasnolimit, the 2009 Iroquois Stakes winner who most notably was second to champion Lookin At Lucky in the Indiana Derby last year.

“The mile suits them well, and it’s a good pot,” Asmussen said Tuesday.

Although they each come off in-the-money finishes last month – Friesan Fire ran third in a money allowance at Fair Grounds in his seasonal bow, and Thiskyhasnolimit was second in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn – both are still seeking to regain their top form.

Friesan Fire is 1 for his last 8, and Thiskyhasnolimit was twice unplaced in graded stakes at Santa Anita this winter before his runner-up finish to stablemate It Happened Again in the Razorback.

Stakes winners Stachys and Gladding should provide the stiffest competition to the Asmussen duo in a Texas Mile expected to have a small to medium-sized field.

Gladding, who won the Grade 2 San Antonio at Santa Anita this winter before finishing unplaced n the Mar. 5 Santa Anita Handicap, is expected in from California for the race, trainer John Sadler said.

There should be more depth in the two supporting stakes Saturday, both on turf – the $50,000 Irving Distaff for fillies and mares and the $50,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge for males.

Asmussen said he would run Pleasantly Blessed in the Irving Distaff. A stakes winner of more than $276,000, she hasn’t started since February of 2010, when she ran fourth in an allowance at Oaklawn.

No Other Tone and Slide On Bye – the first- and second-place finishers, respectively, from an open turf allowance at Sam Houston Feb. 21 – lead the potential opposition.

Stakes winners Skip a Smile and Baltimore Bob are two leading prospects for the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge.

Saturday’s races will be drawn Wednesday.

Concerts spur business

Buoyed by popular concerts from The Randy Rogers Band and Ted Nugent, Lone Star completed opening week with attendance of 50,471, a 16 percent jump over last year's total.

Ontrack handle also rose 10 percent to $1.67 million, and total handle was up 6 percent to $5.34 million. Track officials attributed the handle increase partially to larger fields than last year.

◗ Chris Landeros jumped out to a commanding 11-4 lead over Lindey Wade and Quincy Hamilton in the jockey standings, while Jack Bruner, Karl Broberg, and Asmussen were deadlocked at the top of the trainer standings with four winners apiece.

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