03/26/2003 12:00AM

Sam Houston: Jock race hot as meet end nears


Last year, the winningest jockey at Sam Houston Race Park was decided on the final night, when John Jacinto won four races to edge Glen Murphy, 67-64. This year, things could be as tight.

Don Simington and Terry Stanton were deadlocked at 71 wins each heading into the final week of racing Thursday. The 80-day meet will close Sunday, and each night until then, the progress of the riders will be tracked by a sign in the winner's circle at Sam Houston.

Simington, 40, won the Sam Houston title during the 1997-98 season, while Stanton, 36, is looking for his first at the track. The two riders are best friends.

"We've known each other over 15 years," said Simington. "We've always been close and it's a lot of fun between us. There's never been a rivalry."

Among trainers, Asmussen will likely pick up his third title at the track Sunday to tie the mark set by Amos Laborde. Asmussen had a 10-win lead over Danny Pish going into the races Thursday.

* More than $8,000 was raised for the Sam Houston Chaplaincy and the Sam Houston Jockey's Crisis Fund through a golf tournament and silent auction earlier this month.