04/10/2009 12:00AM

Milligan makes good on promise


Allen Milligan, who earlier this week was battling Steve Asmussen for the training title at the Oaklawn Park meet that was to end Saturday, got his Lone Star Park season off to a fast start Thursday night by winning the $50,000 Premiere Stakes with Upstream.

"It was a great feeling," he said of winning the traditional first race of the meet at Lone Star.

Milligan figures to be a serious force in the Lone Star training ranks. He has a 50-horse division at the track and is strong with young horses, an asset that will serve him well because 2-year-old racing is a big part of the scene in Texas.

"I'm very excited about the 2-year-old crop we have this year," he said. "I've got a lot of people who bought some nice 2-year-olds."

Milligan also is strong with older horses, as evidenced by Upstream's win in the Premiere. Milligan had claimed the horse on behalf of Coby Tresner last July at Lone Star for $7,500, then lost him to the claim box for $15,000 in October at Remington Park. Tresner and Milligan claimed Upstream back for $20,000 at Remington in November.

"I told [Tresner] if he'd claim him back I'd win the Premiere for him," Milligan said. "I almost lied."

Upstream ($8) won a tight photo Thursday, getting the Premiere for Texas-breds by a nose over favorite Ablaze With Spirit.

Milligan said a goal for Upstream is the Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park on July 25. The horse is targeting the $50,000 Iron Horse at 1 1/16 miles. Other older horses Milligan would like to see make the Claiming Crown include Irish Dreamer, who is a candidate for the $50,000 Express, and Que Paso, who could target the $100,000 Emerald.

Milligan, 42, is a former assistant trainer to his father, Eddie Milligan, as well as Frank Brothers. He is a native of Celina, Texas. Milligan had a one-win lead over Asmussen in the trainer standings at Oaklawn heading into the races there Friday. Asmussen won three races on the first Lone Star card Thursday, to take quick command of the trainer standings.

Sandburr enjoying retirement

Sandburr, who was a two-time winner of the Premiere, was retired earlier this year and now resides on the Covington, Texas, farm of John and Kathy Volkman, said his longtime trainer, Michael Stidham.

"He just couldn't be happier," Stidham said. "He's living a great life."

Sandburr, 10, established himself as one of the top Texas-breds in training over the past couple of years by winning the Premiere twice and the Star of Texas at Sam Houston Race Park twice. He retired with 16 wins from 62 starts for earnings of $467,321. He also won the Louisiana Breeders' Cup Handicap at Fair Grounds.

* Lone Star reported an ontrack crowd of 8,553 for its Thursday night opener, which was up from the crowd of 8,365 a year ago. Handle on Thursday night's 10-race card was $2,020,688 from all sources, with $1,513,178 being bet on the track's races offsite and another $507,510 being bet at the track.

* Inflight will move back to dirt, the surface on which he won his maiden, in the eighth race Sunday at Lone Star. The first-level allowance is for 3-year-olds and it will be run at six furlongs.

Inflight won his maiden at that distance at Oaklawn in January, when he led throughout for a nose win. He moved to turf at Fair Grounds for his last start March 29 and closed for third in a $50,000 optional claimer. Eddie Martin Jr. has the mount for trainer Bret Calhoun.