05/10/2011 2:45PM

Louisiana Downs: Leggio scouting out next race for St. John's River


Trainer Andrew Leggio on Tuesday morning was doing a little homework. He was just starting to look into the next-race options for St. John’s River, who finished a fast-closing second in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday.

“We’re going to look and see what they’ve got floating around out there,” said Leggio, who trains St. John’s River for Dede McGehee. “We’ll look for something in about six weeks.”

St. John’s River arrived at Leggio’s current base of Louisiana Downs on Monday morning. She finished a neck behind Plum Pretty in the Kentucky Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race in which she closed from 16 lengths back. For the effort, St. John’s River earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

“She ran big,” Leggio said. “I was very pleased with the way she ran. I was very proud of her.”

St. John’s River had earned her shot at the Kentucky Oaks after finishing second by a half-length in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26.

Leggio has several races to debate for her next start, with three 1 1/16-mile options on June 25: the Grade 1, $250,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park; the Grade 2, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks at Hollywood Park; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows.

Leggio said other options include the Grade 2, $300,000 Delaware Oaks at 1 1/16 miles July 9, and the Grade 1, $250,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga on July 23.

Leggio said the ideally he would like at least 1 1/8 miles for St John’s River. She is a full sister to millionaire Panty Raid, whose wins included the Grade 1 American Oaks Invitational at 1 1/4 miles at Hollywood Park in 2007.

Riders win first career races

There were two apprentice riders who won the first races of their careers Saturday at Lone Star Park. In the sixth race, Rodolfo De La Cruz Guerra guided The Real Story ($26.40) to victory in what was his first career mount. In the ninth race, Brayan Velazquez won for the first time with his fifth career mount, Come Slew Me ($3.40).

Velazquez, 18, is the older brother of Denny Velazquez, who was the leading apprentice at Fair Grounds this past winter with 11 wins. Denny, 17, is now riding in Indiana.

Brayan Velazquez launched his career at Lone Star in April. For the past two years, he has been galloping horses in Oklahoma. The brothers were introduced to racing by their father, former trainer Eleazer Velazquez.

“My dad taught me and my little brother,” said Brayan Velazquez.

Saturday was a good day to be named Velazquez, with John Velazquez winning his first Kentucky Derby.

“He won it, then 15 minutes later I won my first race,” said Brayan, who is not related to the New York-based John Velazquez.

Shawn Bergquist represents Brayan Velazquez.

Guerra, who goes by Rudy, is 20, said his agent, Toby Cathey. Guerra began galloping horses at 16 at a farm in California. He did the same at Santa Anita before his family moved to Texas and he spent time on a farm working with former jockey Jeremy Beasley. Cathey said he got word about Guerra from trainer Mindy Willis, for whom Guerra was galloping at Lone Star. The win Saturday was a pick-up mount, said Cathey.

Return to turf for The Mallard Man

The Mallard Man, who last month dominated the $50,000 Arkansas Breeders’ for statebreds at Oaklawn Park, will return to arguably his best surface, the turf, in the fourth race Thursday at Louisiana Downs. The $25,000 optional claimer with second-level allowance will be run at about a mile.

The Mallard Man put up his best Beyer Figure, an 80, when last seen on the grass, in a turf allowance at Louisiana Downs. Don Simington, who is tied atop the jockey standings, has the mount for Five Star Racing and trainer Al Cates.

◗ Apprentice jockey Ron Richard sustained a broken jaw in a Saturday spill, according to his agent, Don Pettinger. He has undergone surgery, and was in Dallas Methodist Hospital as of Tuesday morning. There were two other riders involved in the chain-reaction spill, with John Rochabrun and Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez both escaping serious injuries.