09/24/2007 11:00PM

Parra going for the gold again

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Ro Parra has gotten quick returns on horses before. In 2005, he bought Super Frolic in August, and by the end of September had won the Hawthorne Gold Cup with the horse. But Student Council paid off even faster - and paid off richly, at that.

Purchased privately in early August, Student Council won the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 in his first start for Parra's Millennium Farms, and now he, too, has come to Hawthorne for a shot at the $500,000 Gold Cup on Saturday.

"We had luck in that race a couple years ago," Parra said, reached by phone late Tuesday morning. "Maybe we can do it again."

Parra probably has caught a break or two along the way, but mostly his growth in horse racing seems like a product of determination and industriousness. Parra, who lives in Austin, Texas, made his living in high technology, working for Dell, the computer systems powerhouse, for some 30 years. Retired, Parra "started claiming a couple horses" less than 10 years ago, he said, and has built an operation of racehorses, broodmares and their offspring, and even stallions. He has a farm in Kentucky, keeps racing stock with trainers Vladimir Cerin and Steve Asmussen, and as of this week, owned in the neighborhood of some 250 horses.

Parra can give you the figures glancing down at his Blackberry. He is very much a hands-on kind of owner, interested in speed figures (Jerry Brown, of the Thoro-Graph company, steered him toward Student Council) and the day-to-day doings of his racehorses.

"We've taken it slowly" Parra said of his Thoroughbred growth. "This isn't a hobby for me. While I do enjoy it, I treat it as a business. Every horse I have is for sale. Student Council is for sale if somebody wanted to buy him."

Parra stresses a team approach, and is not afraid to make bold moves - characteristics that have landed Student Council in Chicago. Student Council's Pacific Classic breakthrough came on Polytrack, but now Parra is going back to dirt. Also, while Cerin trained Student Council last time, he will start Saturday for Parra's other major trainer, Asmussen. Student Council, Parra said, spent several days with Asmussen's Saratoga string after Parra bought him, then was shipped to California on top of the Pacific Classic.

"Steve had him for a few days, even worked him at Saratoga before he left," Parra said. "They called me after he worked, and they told me he was going to win the race."

Things, however, don't always compute as neatly in the flesh-and-blood world of racing as they do in high-tech business: The Super Frolic story ended badly this month, with a catastrophic breakdown at Presque Isle Downs.

"Of course you have frustrations," said Parra. "We lost Super Frolic last week, and things like that happen. A horse that was so good to us - to see him go was very, very sad."

Super Frolic sprang from the Gold Cup to the Breeders' Cup Classic and finished a close fourth, but Parra declined to peer farther into Student Council's autumn than this Saturday.

"We're taking it the proverbial one race at a time," he said.

Race looking more attractive

Gold Cup possibles are creeping out of the woodwork now that Street Sense has been announced for the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway rather than the Gold Cup. Trainer Randy Morse confirmed Tuesday that Jonesboro was likely to be supplemented to the race at a cost of $10,000 when entries were to be taken Wednesday. Also, John Ward said that Extreme Supreme, a Saratoga allowance-race winner in his most recent start, was likely to be entered.

"We're leaning off possible and toward probable," Ward said.

Hawthorne racing officials were hopeful that A.P. Arrow, Miami Sunrise, Wayzata Bay, and perhaps Gouldings Green would be entered. If all went, the field for the Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile race would come to seven, a decent number considering handicap horses are split four ways this weekend among races at Hawthorne, Turfway, Belmont, and Santa Anita.