11/24/2006 12:00AM

Pragmatism and loyalty keep Leparoux at Turfway


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Patrick Biancone never said this was forever.

"I'm just talking about this winter," said Biancone. "Not every winter."

Biancone knows as well as anyone that Julien Leparoux might well have already outgrown Turfway Park, but when Biancone said he needed Leparoux to ride primarily this winter at Turfway - where more than four straight months of live racing begins Sunday - there were no questions asked.

Leparoux launched his riding career at the Florence, Ky., track - a career that, in the span of a little more than one year, already has hit unforeseen heights. Into Friday, Leparoux had won 416 races this year, more than any other jockey in North America.

Biancone is Leparoux's mentor and, as the trainer of a 60-horse stable split between Kentucky and California, is his primary employer. Leparoux came from France in January 2003 to work as a gallop boy and stablehand for Biancone, who finally gave his permission for Leparoux to begin riding in races at the 2005 Saratoga meet. Their relationship is quite like a coach and player, or even a father and son.

It would not have surprised anyone if Leparoux had tried to further his status within the national riding colony by shifting his tack to California, Florida, or even New York, so the fact he is staying put at Turfway while many of the Kentucky circuit's top jockeys are headed elsewhere comes as something of a mild upset. As the proverbial big fish in a small pond, Leparoux figures to thoroughly dominate the jockey standings at Turfway, where last year he set a track record for wins at a winter-spring meet with 167.

"I want to win races," Leparoux said between races Friday at Churchill Downs.

Biancone, speaking from California, said a confluence of circumstances led him to instruct Leparoux to stay at Turfway, although he said the jockey will be coming to the West Coast to ride stakes on a fairly frequent basis.

"One, there is not enough business for him to come here or go to Florida," said Biancone. "The other thing is what I really think is that without the guys training at Turfway in the winter, he would not have become who he is. He would not have become Julien Leparoux as quick. This is a way to thank them and for him to keep winning races - four or five a day, hopefully. This is a game about winning."

Biancone will be active at the meet, drawing from about 20 runners at Turfway. Meanwhile, another 20 horses at Keeneland "won't be running much," if at all, during the meet, he said. He has another 20 head at Hollywood Park. Biancone is a major proponent of synthetic racing surfaces, which are used at all three of those tracks.

Leparoux and Biancone said that things may change over the course of the next year so that Leparoux will not stay in Kentucky after the major fall meets at Keeneland and Churchill.

"The horsemen and management at Turfway have been very good to Julien," said Biancone. "It's good for everyone that he's staying."

Leparoux will not begin riding at Turfway until Dec. 6. He rides Sunday at Hollywood, and then, through Friday, he will serve a suspension stemming from a Nov. 16 riding infraction at Churchill. He then will ride in California again on Dec. 2 and 3, and "then he should be at Turfway almost all the time after that," said Leparoux's agent, Steve Bass.

Borel out six to eight weeks

Jockey Calvin Borel underwent surgery early Friday to set several fractures in his broken right wrist. Borel was injured when Pew, his mount in the fifth race Thursday at Churchill, broke down and fell on the turf course.

Borel's agent, Jerry Hissam, said he has been informed that Borel would need six to eight weeks to recuperate, assuming all goes as hoped.

"Supposedly they were clean breaks in the arm," said Hissam.

Borel already had planned to take off until the Jan. 19 opening of Oaklawn Park, so "we'll just have to see if he can be back in time for that," said Hissam.

Elzey to book Mena, Quinonez

The long winter at Turfway should be another profitable one for veteran agent Steve Elzey, who is booking mounts for Miguel Mena and 23-year-old apprentice Alfonso Quinonez.

Mena was the leading rider at Ellis Park last summer and figures to fare as well as any rider this side of Leparoux. Quinonez, from Mexico, is the youngest brother of Luis Quinonez, who has been a leading rider at numerous Midwest tracks. Another Quinonez brother, Belen, also is based in the Midwest.