09/13/2013 2:49PM

Louisiana Downs: Foster closes in on first training title

Lou Hodges Jr.
Joey Foster held an eight-win lead in the Louisiana Downs trainers' standings through Thursday.

Joey Foster started galloping horses at Louisiana Downs back in 1978. Next weekend, he is expected to win his first career training title at the Bossier City track, which closes its meet Sept. 22.

Foster was up by eight wins heading into Friday’s races. His stable had 39 wins from 205 starters at the meet that opened May 3. The success comes a year after Foster finished second in the trainers’ standings at Louisiana Downs.

“It would be good to get the title,” Foster, 51, said. “It would be an honor to have it.”

Foster grew up in Russellville, Ark. He was raised on his uncle’s farm following the death of his father when he was just 8. It was there that Foster found his niche, working with horses.

“At my uncle’s, there was about 30 head of horses,” Foster said. “We’d break horses for everybody around there – ranch horses. I’ve been on a horse since whenever.”

Foster made his way to the track for the first time at age 16.

“My brother was a valet and was galloping horses,” Foster said. “It was summertime, and I was out of school, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to Louisiana Downs?’ I came down in 1978, got to galloping horses, and have been on the racetrack ever since.”

Foster spent some of his formative years working for trainers Morris Nicks and the late Gene Norman. He also ponied horses to post. Foster eventually opened a public stable and registered his first win as a trainer at Louisiana Downs on May 14, 1992. Through the years, he’s also raced at such tracks as Delta Downs in Vinton, La.; Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.; Evangeline Downs near Lafayette, La.; Fair Grounds in New Orleans; Lone Star Park near Dallas; and Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

Foster’s best year came in 2012, when he won 67 races from 370 starters for stable earnings of $1,237,235. He seems poised to surpass those numbers this year. So far in 2013, Foster has won 53 races from 308 starters, with stable earnings of $825,015.

After the current meet, he said he plans to set up shop at Delta Downs, where last season he finished fifth in the standings. Foster also wants to send a small division of horses to Oaklawn, where he last raced in 2005.

“I’ve got some horses that fit up there,” he said.

Foster, who has 50 head in training, said one reason to branch out to Oaklawn is that he has owners from Arkansas. Foster also feels that the track’s one-mile oval will suit some of his horses who do not handle the six-furlong track at Delta. He also has seen the quality and quantity of his mostly claiming-horse operation rise over the last few years.

Foster’s stable includes Drinking Fund, a $5,000 claim who won six straight races between Dec. 29 and June 13, including the $50,000 Honeymoon at Louisiana Downs.

She was freshened following a ninth-place finish in the $100,000 Louisiana Cup Distaff in August and is due to return to training in October. Foster said she has been paid up in the Claiming Crown.

Runaway Stephen, a $20,000 claim who was third in the $100,000 Prelude at Louisiana Downs in August, ran fifth in the track’s Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby on Sept. 7. He could run back at Delta, Foster said, adding that the horse is scheduled to be gelded first and might end up based at Oaklawn. Earlier this season, Runaway Stephen was an allowance winner at Louisiana Downs.

“We’ve had a very blessed meet,” Foster said. “We’ve been very lucky. It’s been a team effort. I’ve got to hand it to my owners, my help, Chris Rosier, who has ridden 70 percent of the horses, and his agent, Ron Ardoin. And my wife. She’s the backbone of this whole deal.”

◗ Jockey John Jacinto, who broke his left forearm in a spill at Louisiana Downs on May 30, is scheduled to make his comeback during the Fair Grounds meet that opens in November, according to his agent, Richard Price. In addition to the arm injury, Jacinto has been recovering from a tendon injury in one of his thumbs. He is expected to resume riding horses in October.