10/30/2001 1:00AM

Pistol-hot Borque shoots to repeat as leading jockey


Steve Bourque, the all-time winningest jockey at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, will be looking for his fourth Sam Houston riding title when the track opens for its ninth season of racing Thursday night.

Bourque has won the last two titles at Sam Houston in record performances, setting a new standard for wins last year, and setting the record for earnings the year before. He won his first riding title at Sam Houston in 1996.

Last week, Bourque won his first Retama Park title, and along the way climbed to 12th-place in wins in the national jockey standings. "It's been a good year," Bourque said, in an understatement.

Bourque's success is due in part to his work ethic, and to the fact that he rides for a broad base of horsemen. "I don't ride for just one guy," he said. "I try to get around to everybody."

Bourque's myriad contacts will be important in helping him secure another title at this Sam Houston meet. The jockey colony will be very competitive. It includes newcomers Sidney LeJeune, who is named to ride several horses opening weekend for trainer Steve Asmussen; David Nuesch; Glen Murphy; and regulars Roman Chapa, Don Simington, and Casey Lambert.

Brothers assistant goes public

James Jones, who has spent the past 10 years as an assistant to top Kentucky horseman Frank Brothers, has taken out a trainer's license of his own and has opened a public stable at Sam Houston. He plans to stay on the Texas circuit, and race next year at Lone Star Park near Dallas, then Retama Park near San Antonio.

Jones, a 37-year-old who was born in Rockdale, Texas, has eight horses based at Sam Houston this meet, and most are owned by prominent breeders, including Claiborne Farm, Adele Dilschneider, and Johnny T.L. Jones.

"I've got some great people helping me get started, and hopefully I can hit the ground running," Jones said.

Brothers hopes that Jones makes a splash.

"He's a natural horseman," said Brothers. "He's extremely dedicated. His first priority is his business and his horses."

Jones said among the promising horses in his barn are 2-year-olds Padlock, Unravel, and Delirium, as well as Hillary, who will start in the $25,000 Jiffy Lube Stakes on Saturday night at Sam Houston.

Boots on Sunday in De Francis

Boots on Sunday, first-place finisher in the $35,000 Longhorn Handicap at Retama Park on Oct. 6 but disqualified for interference, is being pointed for the Grade 1 $300,000 De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park in Maryland on Nov. 17, trainer Danny Pish said.

Pish said the six-furlong race became an option for Boots on Sunday following his close fourth-place finish to eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint starter Bet on Sunshine in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap.

Boots on Sunday has developed nicely since last season, when he won 6 of 11 starts in front-running style.

"He doesn't have to have the lead now, and that is something that could allow him to step up," said Pish.

Roman Chapa will ride.

Following the De Francis, Boots on Sunday might start in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas Sprint on Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston on Dec. 1. Wilton Scott of Houston owns the horse.

Asmussens apply for license

Keith and Marilyn Asmussen, as well as their son, former jockey Cash Asmussen, have submitted a parimutuel license application to the Texas Racing Commission. The family intends to covert their El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas, into a Class 3 track, and has asked the commission to grant them a mixed meet that would run weekends in December 2002.

Sam Houston will serve as consultant to El Primero.