10/01/2003 11:00PM

Seven stakes for Texas-breds on rich card


Saturday night will be a celebration of Texas racing's past and a look at its future during the annual Texas Hall of Fame program at Retama Park near San Antonio.

The memories begin with inductions into the Texas Hall during a late afternoon gala, while the future will be told on the track a few hours later, when some of the state's top 2-year-olds compete in two $125,000 divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes.

The six-furlong races are two of seven restricted stakes worth a cumulative $490,000 on the card at Retama. The program is the richest of the meet, and it complements the Texas Hall inductions of late trainer Willard Proctor; jockey Cash Asmussen; turf writer Allen Bogan; breeder Ott Adams; Grade 1 winner Two Altazano; and top Quarter Horse Three Oh's.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will start four of the 10 colts and geldings in a division of the Texas Stallion Stakes, and all of them are coupled. The most interesting of his starters are Roundabout Jones, who is 2 for 2, and Iron Expectations, a talented sort who will be making his first start since finishing a close second in a Lone Star Park division of the Texas Stallion Stakes on June 28.

Roundabout Jones won his debut in impressive fashion, then came back and beat stakes rivals in his second career start when he captured the colts and geldings division of the Friendship Stakes for Texas-breds at Louisiana Downs.

"He ran really well, and he's carrying on the family tradition nicely," said Asmussen, who in the past has won divisions of the Friendship with the dam and sister of Roundabout Jones.

Soon after the colt's win, Asmussen shipped Roundabout Jones, whom he described as "extremely athletic," to Retama to prepare for the Texas Stallion Stakes. Jeremy Beasley, the leading rider at Retama, has the mount, while Lonnie Meche comes in from his Louisiana Downs base to ride Iron Expectations.

Hay Lauren, who won the other division of the Friendship Stakes, heads a field of eight in the fillies division of the Texas Stallion Stakes. She has been the picture of consistency all season, winning 4 of 5 career starts for owner Ro Parra and trainer Barry Germany.

Back in June, she won a division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star, then was given two months off to freshen for a fall campaign. In her first start back, she rallied through the stretch to win the Friendship.

"I thought she showed a lot of heart, a lot of determination," Germany said. "Her conformation is perfect. Her temperament is absolutely perfect, in the paddock, on the track, and I think that's what makes her special. She's mentally there, and physically superior."

The chief threat to Hay Lauren, who will break from post 8 under Gerard Melancon, could be Sago, who has won both of her career starts with authority. Her latest win came in a conditioned allowance at Retama.

"She's been unbelievably surprising in her two races," said Asmussen, who has given the mount to Beasley.

Eagle Lake leads Cornett invasion

Eagle Lake, who won the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Distaff on turf in May, is one of three horses owner Mark Cornett plans to start on the Hall of Fame card. Last year, he won three of the stakes.

Eagle Lake is back to defend her title in the $35,000 Fiesta Mile on turf against a field that includes Lady Mallory, while Fitzroyal will attempt to do the same against the always tough Front Nine in the $35,000 Longhorn.

Cornett, who races under the banner Turf Express, will also start Salsa Real in the $35,000 Selma for 3-year-old fillies at five furlongs on turf. Last year, the Cornett-owned Bonus Bid won the Selma.

All of the horses are trained by Cole Norman, and will be ridden by Melancon. Cornett is the ninth-leading owner in wins in North America.

Desert Darby to defend Hall of Fame

Desert Darby will attempt to defend his title in the $100,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up that serves as the feature Saturday. Others in the race are Rare Cure and D C Storm, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Hall of Fame a year ago, and newcomer Agrivating General, who will start for Danny Pish, the leading trainer at Retama.

Pish has another top contender on the card with Action Tonight in the $35,000 Tejas.