07/20/2004 11:00PM

Pish big in Retama pond

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Trainer Danny Pish operates one of the largest stables in Texas, and his barn will move into what usually is one of its most prosperous periods of the year on Friday night with the opening of Retama Park near San Antonio.

Pish is an odds-on favorite to win his sixth straight training title at the track. He has 50 horses on the grounds, and another group of runners at his farm, about 10 miles from Retama.

"We usually keep 60 to 100 in training," said Pish. "We'll have about 65 to pull from to enter."

The remaining horses are either getting some downtime, or are young horses preparing for the races. Pish's barn is led by Agrivating General, who won three consecutive races this summer at Lone Star Park, including a tough turf allowance, and the $50,000 Premiere for horses bred in Texas.

Agrivating General's main goals this meet are the $40,000 Chick Lang Jr. Memorial on Aug. 21, and the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame for Texas-breds on Sept. 18.

Another quality runner in the Pish barn is Leaving on My Mind, a 2-year-old colt who has placed in two stakes. He could see stakes action at the meet in a race like the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes on Sept. 18.

Pish also has a couple of 2-year-olds he hopes to see develop into candidates for the $100,000 Ketel One El Joven and the $100,000 La Senorita, two turf races run on Sept. 4.

Pish won the Retama title last year with 43 wins, and the year before had 46 victories.

"You can't count your chickens before they hatch, but we hope to have a comparable meet to last year," said Pish. "We have a very similar barn as far as quality and numbers."

Pish's horses seem to excel at Retama for a couple of reasons. For one, they are a strong fit classwise. The other, he said, has to do with familiarity with Retama.

"A lot of them got their preliminary training there," Pish said of the track, which remains open as a training center between meets. "They grew up there. They're comfortable there."

Boots on Sunday in a new role

Boots on Sunday, a top regional sprinter trained by Pish, was retired this summer, but is scheduled to return to the trainer's barn on Aug. 1. He will go to work as a stable pony for Pish.

It will be a new career for Boots on Sunday, a gelding who won 14 races and $417,965.

"He'll fall into it," said Pish. "He's a smart horse."

Boots on Sunday retired with a tendon injury. He raced for his breeder, Wilton Scott.

Desert Darby points for Hall

Desert Darby, who won the Texas Hall of Fame Stakes in 2002, is being pointed for the race again this year, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen. He has resumed training at Lone Star Park, where Asmussen has a stable of horses pointing for races at Retama and Louisiana Downs, as well as the fall meet at Lone Star.

"We gave him a vacation," Asmussen said of Desert Darby. "There was nothing for him."

After the Hall of Fame, Asmussen said, another objective for Desert Darby will be the $100,000 Assault for Texas-breds at Lone Star on Oct. 23. He also won that race in 2002.

Ceremonies in Dallas, Houston

Retama has hosted a gala surrounding its Texas Hall of Fame stakes night for the past several years, but this year there will be two. One will be held at Lone Star on Oct. 23 to coincide with Lone Star's hosting of the Breeders' Cup, while the other will be held at Sam Houston on Aug. 14.

Will Farish and Nelson Bunker Hunt will be inducted at Lone Star, while Ben Hudson and Anne Burnett Tandy, who represent the Quarter Horse industry, will be honored at Sam Houston.

Retama is the home of the Texas Hall, and a permanent museum is in the planning stages. Exhibits of those enshrined are on the clubhouse level at Retama.

* Retama's popular Fifty-Cent Night will be offered on Friday. Admission to the track will be free, while hot dogs and sodas will be 50 cents each. Retama plans to offer the 50-cent promotion each weekend during the meet.

At a glance: Retama Park

* RACING SCHEDULE: 39 days; Friday through Sept. 25; racing on Thursday through Sunday through Aug. 29, then Wednesday through Saturday through Sept. 25.

* POST TIME: 6:45 p.m. Central nightly except Sundays, 5:30 p.m.

* ADMISSIONS: $2.50 general; $1 for clubhouse upgrade; reduced admission on some promotional nights.

* PARKING: $2 general

* HIGHLIGHTS: $100,000 Ketel One El Joven Stakes and $100,000 La Senorita Stakes on Sept. 4; Texas Hall of Fame night on Sept. 18, when six restricted stakes will be run for total purses of $470,000.

* LOCATION: Located on Interstate 35, exit 174A. The mailing address is P.O. Box 47535, San Antonio, Texas, 78265

* PHONE: (210) 651-7000

* INTERNET: www.retamapark.com