04/13/2009 11:00PM

Newcomer off to hot start

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Jockey Chris Landeros is a near-scratch golfer, one not to bet against on the course.

Lone Star horseplayers learned this past week not to bet against him on the racetrack, either. A 20-year-old California native and a newcomer to Texas racing, Landeros won with 7 of 27 mounts opening week and vaulted to an early lead in the rider standings.

His lack of ties to this circuit didn't show. With Scott Hare, former agent for Justin Shepherd, lining up mounts and introducing him to Texas horsemen, Landeros was among the most active jockeys, riding six horses on Thursday, six on Friday, seven on Saturday, and eight on Sunday.

"I can't explain how good it felt just to be riding a lot," he said.

Those opportunities didn't exist for him recently when he was riding in Northern California, where short fields and an abundance of riders left him riding two or three horses a day, he said.

"It's just like a golf swing," he said, bringing up his second-favorite activity, one he hopes to pursue professionally when his riding career is over. "You have to practice to get better. And if you ride seven or eight horses a day, you're going to get better."

Landeros has the racing background for success. His father, Manny Landeros, is an assistant trainer for Mike Puype in Southern California, and with a family involved in the sport, racing got in his blood at a young age.

So early, in fact, that Landeros was riding when most young men his age are simply looking for a date to the prom. He began riding at age 17 at Turf Paradise in January of 2006.

He won with nearly 20 percent of his mounts that first meet at Turf Paradise, winning 51 races, and easily surpassed that total the following year by winning 96 races, placing him second in the standings behind Glenn Corbett. Last year, he also placed third in the spring Golden Gate standings behind Russell Baze and Frank Alvarado with 16 winners.

In total, he has ridden 378 winners from 2,252 mounts with career earnings of more than $4.5 million.

Now he is positioned for a run at the jockey title at Lone Star, though winning will not come easily. The depth of the rider colony is stronger this week than last, following the close of Oaklawn Park, most notably with jockeys Quincy Hamilton and Cliff Berry now at Lone Star.

"Starting at a new meet, the first two weeks is very critical," Landeros said. "I'm glad everything rolled my way, and now I have the opportunity to make something more of it."

Asmussen in familiar spot

Unlike in the jockeys' race, a regular stands in his customary position atop the trainer standings - that being 10-time Lone Star training champion Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen won with 8 of 26 starters opening week, giving him a three-win lead over Jack Bruner, who had five winners from his 11 starters.

Landeros was aboard all five winners for Bruner.

Handle down so far

Ontrack handle fell 15.5 percent opening week at Lone Star, although the track was up marginally in attendance, largely because of a Friday evening crowd of 18,561 that was bolstered by a postrace concert by the Randy Rogers Band.

Dan Leary, Lone Star's director of communications, said he was encouraged by business opening week, considering the rainy weather on Easter Sunday. Ontrack attendance Sunday was just under 5,000, compared with more than 12,000 last year, he said.

As a result of the wet conditions, the scheduled turf races were moved to a sloppy main track.

All-sources handle opening week was down just over 3 percent.

* Thursday night's headline race at Lone Star is a $27,000 second-level allowance with a $30,000 claiming condition at 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt that goes as the eighth of nine races on the card. Park Affair, making her second start of the year for trainer Bret Calhoun, is the 8-5 favorite and figures to be challenged by Tear Jerker and Morning Ridge.