02/27/2008 12:00AM

Roussel back in the barn with three

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NEW ORLEANS - Friday's eighth race features the beginning of a comeback when the appropriately named Recapturetheglory goes forward for trainer Louis Roussel III.

Roussel, 62, has been out of the training part of the horse business for more than four years, battling health issues, including two back surgeries and an operation on his neck.

Now he is feeling better and has taken over the training of three horses he co-owns with Ronnie Lamarque. The two have teamed up many times over the years, most famously with their 1988 Eclipse Award winner, Risen Star, who won the Preakness, Belmont, and Louisiana Derby.

"I love the game," said Roussel. "I'll have to see how my body holds up, how the training goes, and see if I can return to training full time."

Roussel continued to race horses during the years he was away, sending horses to Chicago to be trained by Lara Van Deren. The three horses he now has in training at Fair Grounds were previously under her tutelage.

Recapturetheglory has shown promise in his first four starts, hitting the board in three of them. In his last race, an allowance on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, he finished second to Cool Coal Man, who won last weekend's Fountain of Youth and appears headed for the Kentucky Derby.

Recapturetheglory will be going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, though the race is not the one Roussel would have designed for him.

"I've worked him all winter, and we needed to get a race under him," said Roussel. "I didn't want to run him on the turf, but the other race didn't fill."

The race Roussel was hoping for would have given Recapturetheglory time to rest before the March 8 Louisiana Derby. If he races well on Friday and comes out healthy, Roussel indicated that he would be pointed toward the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 5.

The other horses in his stable are maidens: Goaltogoal, by Fusaichi Pegasus, and Lazer Sun, by Posse.

Lamarque, the 61-year-old co-owner of all three, is famous locally for his association with Risen Star, and for the commercials he makes that feature his singing on behalf of his automobile dealerships.

"He's been great to work with," said Roussel. "It's been a great partnership. We're friends for life."

Roussel has played many roles in the Louisiana horse business. He owned Fair Grounds from 1977 to 1990 before selling it to Marie and Brian Krantz. He still owns his own barn on the backstretch at Fair Grounds, which he retained when he sold to Krantz and when Krantz sold to Churchill Downs.

His barn is currently leased to trainer Pat Mouton, and Roussel's horses are stabled in Barn 3, in stalls belonging to Sturges Ducoing.

Roussel, who began training in 1970, has sent out 758 winners from 3,448 starters, for purse earnings of more than $14.6 million.

When asked how he liked his chances of a successful comeback, Roussel was philosophical.

"It might be that horse racing has passed me by," said Roussel. "My friend told me that now I am a has-been, but I told him that I would rather be a has-been than a never-was."

Last of the statebred stakes

The stakes racing here for Louisiana-bred horses draws to a close this Saturday with two turf stakes. Seven 3-year-old fillies will line up for the Sarah Lane's Oates, a mile race, and the Gentilly Stakes at 1 1/16 miles has drawn a filed of nine colts.

The Sarah Lane's Oates will feature the return of Hisse, who finished second in the Happy Ticket on Feb. 16, losing by a head to stablemate Sax Appeal. Sax Appeal isn't in the Sarah Lane's Oates, and Hisse was 5 1/4 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

Peteadoris will make his first start for trainer Edward Johnston in the Gentilly, returning to Louisiana-bred company after a wide trip on the way to finishing eighth in the Risen Star. He will meet several who look primed for this race.

Many of the horses in the Gentilly are renewing familiar rivalries. Among them is Pantara Phantom, who has made six career starts, five of them stakes for Louisiana-breds, and has finished out of the money only once.