07/17/2013 3:47PM

Louisiana Downs notes: Burress beginning to gain momentum


BOSSIER CITY, La. – For someone just six months removed from back surgery, jockey Beverly Burress is getting around pretty good these days. So good in fact, that the 28-year-old Shreveport, La., native is starting to win at the rate that produced a top-10 finish in the rider standings at Louisiana Downs in 2012 when she made 27 trips to the winner’s circle.

“I feel great,” Burress said. “I’ve got my legs back now and my timing is getting better every day.”

Burress injured her back in a spill at Louisiana Downs late in the season last year. After aggravating the injury at Delta Downs in the fall, Burress knew she had to seek help.

“When you go looking for someone to cut on your back, you know you are hurt,” Burress said with a wry smile. “We tried spinal injections, but they didn’t work. They ended up operating on the disc above my L1 vertebra in late December.”

The back problem was not the first injury that Burress has had to deal with. She admits to having “screws and plates all over.” She said, however, that she does not dwell on the ever-present danger of being hurt.

“You can’t think about it,” she said. “It’s a dangerous job, sure, but if you start thinking about it and being scared, that is when the worst seems to happen.”

Burress grew up in Jones, Okla. She hails from a horse racing family as her father Bobby and uncle Billy both trained at one time and her grandfather, Billy Burress Sr., still does. Despite growing up in that environment, Burress said becoming a jockey came more out of necessity than as a career choice.

“I went to nursing school out of high school,” Burress said. “The third semester kind of kicked my behind, so I fell back to what I knew, and that was the racetrack. I was always around the track as a kid. I started ponying and then became an exercise rider. All that evolved into becoming a rider, and now I love it.”

Burress won her first race in 2005 at Blue Ribbon Downs in eastern Oklahoma and then burst upon the Midwestern scene in early 2006 by winning 30 races at the Oaklawn meeting. That number landed her the title of leading apprentice and a sixth-place finish in the overall standings. The only female rider to win more races in a single season at Oaklawn is Cindy Noll.

“I considered Cindy a role model growing up,” Burress said. “She and Denise Lambeth, who is a Quarter Horse rider, are two riders that have influenced me most.”

Burress said her latest comeback is on track, and her immediate goal is to get on better and better horses. She is currently being represented by veteran agent Frank Trosclair.

“Frank told me at Delta not to give anyone else my book when I came back, that he wanted it,” Burress said. “I thought to myself, ‘yes.’

“I’ve been getting on a lot of lower-level stock and that is fine, that is what I have always done. Hopefully, the better horses will come.”

Super Saturday nominations

Nominations for the first “Super Saturday” of the Louisiana Downs meeting will close Saturday. The first open stakes races of the meeting, the $50,000 Sunny’s Halo and $50,000 Donnie Wilhite for 2-year-olds on the turf as well as the $50,000 Barksdale for 3-year-olds on the grass will be run Aug. 3. Also slated for that day is the $100,000 Super Derby Prelude, which will earn the winner a fees-paid berth in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby on Sept. 7.

Handicapping contest Saturday

The second contest in the Super Derby Showdown Handicapping Series is set for Saturday. The entry fee is $25, with the winner to receive $500 and one entry into the Showdown Finale on Super Derby Day.

Registration begins at 10 a.m. in the racing lobby on the first floor, with the winner to be announced at 6 p.m.