08/18/2009 11:00PM

Sellers has 'passion' back

Louis Hodges Jr.
Shane Sellers and Uno Mas come back winners in the Prelude last Saturday.

Jockey Shane Sellers has won 24 races a month and a half into his comeback, the most notable coming last Saturday at Louisiana Downs. He was aboard Uno Mas in the $100,000 Prelude, the local prep for the Grade 2, $750,000 Super Derby. With the win, Sellers improved his mount earnings to $570,763 from 111 starts since returning July 2 from a layoff of more than four years.

"I didn't expect things to go this well," said Sellers, 42. "I was just hoping to get back in the game. I'm grateful to the people of Louisiana, especially Steve Asmussen. If you don't ride live horses, you don't win. And that's what's happening now. I'm riding live horses, and it's a great feeling."

Asmussen trains Uno Mas, one of 12 winners he has put Sellers on since the rider's comeback. The pair has gone 10 for 36 at Evangeline Downs, where Sellers is based. Asmussen also put Sellers on his other Louisiana Downs stakes winner, Lightlightlight, in the $100,000 Louisiana Cup Oaks on Aug. 2.

"For Steve to be confident enough in me to ride stakes horses, it's boosted my confidence up a notch," Sellers said. "I've got that passion and drive again."

Sellers, a winner of more than 4,000 races, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and BC Turf, had initially retired from riding in 2002 because of recurring pain from a knee injury sustained in 2000. He later resumed his career, but formally announced a second retirement in December 2004 while expressing concerns over insurance issues facing jockeys.

"When I walked away, I didn't feel like it was time for me to walk away," he said.

With the support of friends like Mark Guidry, a jockey turned trainer, Sellers made his comeback. He lost 30 pounds and won with his first mount back, for Guidry at Evangeline. Sellers, who said his knee is fine, now tacks 118.

"When I first started I was at 120," he said. "It was tough to get there. After riding a little while, I got it down to 118. I don't see myself getting down too much further than that, maybe 117. I feel strong at 117 and 118, and I don't see horses getting in a whole lot lighter, anyway."

After Evangeline closes Sept. 7, Sellers plans to spend time at Louisiana Downs and Delta. He also intends to ride at Fair Grounds.

"I think the smart thing for me to do is to stay around Louisiana, drum up some business, local people, for the Fair Grounds," he said. "I'll see what kind of business I have there, and after Fair Grounds I'll have a good gauge of where I need to go.

"I believe I can still compete at a high level, and there was no reason for me not to try and come back," he said. "To be where I am right now, to see where I might go, it's exciting."

Uno Mas eyes Super Derby

Uno Mas, who defeated future Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire in an allowance in December, invaded from Kentucky for a fast-closing neck win in the Prelude.

"We're very proud of him," said Asmussen.

Asmussen said plans are to ship Uno Mas back to town for the Super Derby on Sept. 19. The horse earned a fees-paid berth into the race for his win in the Prelude.

"I think we'll give him the opportunity to train up to the Super Derby," Asmussen said. "He'll be at Churchill, training there. He won off of [that track] for the Prelude, so why change?"

Uno Mas is by Macho Uno.

Meet to open, close later in 2010

Louisiana Downs will start and end next year's meet about two weeks later than the current season after the Louisiana Racing Commission on Monday approved the track's request for an 84-date meet for 2010.

Louisiana Downs will open next year May 29 and run through Oct. 17, 2010. The current meet ends Oct. 4. The commission on Monday also approved a 46-date Quarter Horse meet for Louisiana Downs next year, from Jan. 9 through March 24.

Evangeline on Monday was awarded an 89-date Thoroughbred meet for 2010, from April 7 to Sept. 6. In other dates action, the commission granted Delta a 52-date Quarter Horse meet from April 14 to July 10.

Also on Monday, the commission approved a request from Fair Grounds to reopen an offtrack betting parlor in Chalmette, La. It had been closed since Hurricane Katrina, said Charles Gardiner, the executive director for the commission.

Waylay goes for seven straight

Waylay will be seeking his seventh consecutive win Thursday when he starts in the eighth race, a $5,000 starter allowance at about 1 1/16 miles on turf. The horse set a Lone Star Park record for wins in a season this past meet, when he went 6 for 6. Thursday, he will be making his turf debut.

A son of Johannesburg, Waylay has a full sibling who is a winner on turf. Jose Riquelme has the mount for trainer Darrell Bravenec.