04/26/2007 11:00PM

Quinonez hopes move pays off


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Fresh off winning his first Oaklawn Park title, jockey Luis Quinonez is now riding at Lone Star Park on a regular basis for the first time in his career. He won the first and second races here Thursday night, including a 2-year-old maiden race for one of his biggest patrons, trainer Steve Asmussen.

"I'm awfully happy about him being here," said Asmussen, who won the training title at Oaklawn. "He's wonderfully consistent and horses run for him. And we've always had a lot of luck."

Asmussen and Quinonez won 20 races from 71 starts together during the recent Oaklawn meet that ended April 14, and so far this meet at Lone Star have gone four for 16. Quinonez made the decision to base here for a couple of reasons after spending much of last year riding in Louisiana.

"I wanted to get home to Oklahoma, and I thought this meet would work out real good because right after here it goes right to Remington," he said. "And my kids, they want to see me ride. And the purses are good, and a lot of people that I ride for, they're going to go there [to Remington].

"We had a great meet in Hot Springs, and that momentum, I hope it carries over here. I think we made the right move."

Quinonez has won with five of 22 mounts in his short time here this meet, and has finished second with six other starters. Last year, he shipped to Lone Star for select races and won with seven of 26 starters. This year, he said he will be traveling to Louisiana for certain races.

Quinonez won the Oaklawn title with 52 wins, 11 more than second leading rider John Jacinto. (Last year, Jacinto won the Oaklawn title by one win over Quinonez in a battle that was decided late on the final card of the meet.) Quinonez's mounts this meet at Oaklawn earned $1.2 million, which topped all jockeys in Hot Springs.

"It felt good to have a riding title there," Quinonez said. "The last couple of years, everywhere I went, they said, 'Oh, you're going to get it this year. You're going to get it this year.' I said, 'Well, I can't count on anything until it's over.' I was so grateful for finishing first."

Quinonez, who has won five riding titles at Canterbury Park, is a 40-year-old native of Mexico. He has two brothers who are jockeys. Belen Quinonez competes in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, and Alonso Quinonez rides in Kentucky.

Higher-end races fill card

There are four allowance or optional claiming races on the card Sunday, with High Pioneer and Dynabin leading the charge in the featured eighth race. The $45,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares will be run at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

In the third race, a second-level allowance, Cherokee Wind attempts to improve his record to three for four off a nine-length allowance win last out at Will Rogers Downs. The sixth race is a second-level allowance for fillies on turf, and it drew the undefeated Alice Belle. The seventh is a first-level allowance for Texas-breds, and among the starters in the field are seven-length maiden winner Diamond Frost.

Skip and Go eyes Assault

Skip and Go, who was named Texas-bred horse of the year in 2005 by the Texas Thoroughbred Association, is now based at Lone Star. He has been working here for trainer Chris Hartman.

Hartman said the meet goal for Skip and Go is the $75,000 Assault Stakes for Texas-breds. The 1 1/16-miles race will be run here July 7. Skip and Go is a three-time stakes winner who has won nine races and $278,125. He is a son of Skip Away.

* Professional tennis player Venus Williams was in the winner's circle after the fourth race Thursday night, with the appropriately-named filly Ace Time. Ace Time was a five-length winner of the maiden claiming turf sprint for Kuehne Racing and trainer Mike Mareina. Officials said Williams was at Lone Star as a guest of the Kuehne family. She was joined in the winner's circle by professional golfer Hank Kuehne.