10/09/2002 11:00PM

Paco Loco filled with attitude and talent

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DALLAS - Paco Loco has taken the overland route to get to the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes at Retama Park near San Antonio. A couple of trail rides have helped take the edge off the talented but sometimes too aggressive gelding, who on Saturday night gets a rematch with top Texas-bred Desert Darby.

The Hall of Fame, run over 1 1/16 miles on turf, is one of seven Thoroughbred stakes on the card. Purses for the races total $470,000, making the program the richest of the meet at Retama.

Paco Loco is a horse with attitude, and sometimes it works for him. In his last start, he equaled a turf course record when he won a one-mile allowance at Retama by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:34.66. And sometimes it works against him - like when he finished sixth to Desert Darby two races back in the $125,000 Assault.

"There was a horse that pulled up in front of him in the clubhouse turn in that race, and he made contact with the horse and had to be checked abruptly," said Danny Pish, who trains Paco Loco for Wilton Scott. "He had a bad attitude the rest of the race."

Pish decided Paco Loco needed some time. "We took him on several long trail rides for about a week straight," said Pish, who tops the standings at Retama.

When Paco Loco returned to the track, he was all business, closing from far back under leading rider Roman Chapa to win the turf allowance Sept. 13.

"As far as talent goes, he's got a lot," said Pish. "It's just taken me a while to get him in the right frame of mind."

Desert Darby won the Assault in his first start back from nearly a year's layoff. He bled one start later when seventh in the $50,000 Retama Turf Cup, and added Lasix last out and finished fourth in an allowance. He appears to be coming to a strong effort Saturday.

"We're expecting a big race," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Desert Darby for Ken Quirk. Desert Darby will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.

There are six others in the Hall of Fame, including gate-to-wire threat Rare Cure, who two back won an optional claimer over stakes winner Rebridled, and Jetts Delight, a Churchill Downs allowance winner who has stepped up his game since being transferred to turf.

Some of the races Saturday night could produce starters for the inaugural NTRA Great State Challenge at Sam Houston on Dec. 7.

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