10/02/2013 4:06PM

Retama Park: Turf course and new general manager ready for meet opener


Retama Park near San Antonio will open its 26-date meet Friday night with a later post time, a new general manager, and a possible Breeders’ Cup rooting interest in Got Shades. The track also has made a strategic change to its stakes schedule, drawn notable new stables, and is to race on turf from its opening after being unable to do so for the first three weeks of the meet a year ago.

“We are running right away with the turf course,” said James Leatherman, racing secretary at Retama. “We are starting with the rail out and are overseeding to ensure we are running on the turf through [the close of the meet] Dec.  28.”

Leatherman said the rail would be out for five weeks, then move in about 20 feet to give “the El Joven and La Senorita pristine grass.”

The El Joven and La Senorita, a pair of one-mile turf races for 2-year-olds, have long been the defining races of the Retama meet. Worth $75,000 each, they will be run Nov.  9. The following weekend, Retama will card two turf route stakes for 3-year-olds and up bred in Texas, the $50,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame and the $50,000 Fiesta Mile for fillies and mares on Nov. 16.

Leatherman paired the races together on a single card in a change designed to make the program more appealing to shippers. The stakes also complement the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame gala that will induct the late Arther A. Seeligson, Dr. Glenn Blodgett, Tami Purcell Burklund, Hadif, Kontiki, and Dashingly.

Retama’s first post will be 7:15  p.m. Central, a half-hour later than usual in one of several fresh ideas from new general manager Chris Corrado, Leatherman said.

“Chris looked at wagering for the first race, and historically, at 6:45, it was a very weakly bet race,” Leatherman said. “He was thinking that people were maybe just getting here, getting to seats, getting food, and didn’t have time to” bet.

For horseplayers, Retama will again offer its reduced 12 percent takeout on rolling doubles and rolling pick threes, Leatherman said.

The stable area is led by Danny Pish, a perennial leading trainer at Retama who on Sunday will be running Got Shades in the $100,000 Zuma Beach at Santa Anita. It’s a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a potential target for Got Shades following back-to-back turf route stakes wins at Louisiana Downs. Pish said last month that the horse was likely for the Zuma Beach, but later said plans had changed and he was targeting a prep at Keeneland.

“We’re back to Plan A,” he said. “It was one ship as opposed to two ships. If we happen to perform well out there [in California], we’re already there and can give the Juvenile Turf a try.”

Pish added Got Shades also could come under consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

New stables at Retama include Allen Milligan, who has a 40-horse division.

“We’re excited to have him,” Leatherman said. “He was the leading trainer this year at Lone Star, and, of course, he’s been a leading trainer at Oaklawn. And Dallas Keen is back, after a couple-year stint away.”

Jockey Roman Chapa, who said he plans to ride at Fair Grounds later this fall, will be in action opening weekend at Retama.

Pinnacle Entertainment, a Las Vegas-based firm that owns River Downs in Ohio, holds a majority interest in Retama in a deal that was completed Jan. 30. Corrado had worked at another Pinnacle property before joining Retama.