01/30/2009 1:00AM

Thompson on the engine early in jockey race


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jockey Terry Thompson took quick command of the Oaklawn Park standings over the track's opening weekend in mid-January and has padded the lead ever since, the same way Eddie Razo Jr. did a year ago en route to winning the title.

Thompson, who has won some of the most important stakes at Oaklawn through the years, is seeking his first local title. He had 11 wins through Thursday, five more than second-leading riders Razo and Quincy Hamilton.

"Opening weekend, we jumped up and won [six], and then it snowballed off that the next week," Thompson said. "I've had the opportunity to ride for everyone here, from the guys who have the two-horse stables to the guys with the big stables. I appreciate all the opportunities. That's how you get the title. You ride for everyone."

Thompson, 37, knows a thing or two about securing titles. A winner of 2,304 races in his career, he has won six titles at Prairie Meadows and three at Hoosier Park. But the Oaklawn title, despite several close calls, has eluded him. He's hoping this is his year, but he knows the competition will be fierce.

"There hasn't been just an open-up leader here in several years," he said. "It's been tight probably the past four years. It's always a tough rider colony here, and this year we have riders from all over the country. We've got leading riders from Mountaineer, to leading riders from Kentucky, to leading riders from Iowa. It's a diverse riding colony."

Thompson approached this year's meet differently than in years past. He spent time in 2008 riding on the East Coast or the first time in his career, setting up shop at Delaware Park after the close of the spring Thoroughbred meet at Prairie Meadows in July. Thompson was encouraged to travel to the East Coast by trainer Larry Jones, for whom he first began riding when the two were at Ellis Park in 1996.

While back East, Thompson rode a little at Belmont Park, and also in New Jersey, winning a pair of Grade 3 races. The geographic change also put the jockey in the unique position of riding three Kentucky Derby prospects, all for Jones: Old Fashioned, Friesan Fire, and It Happened Again.

"I broke all their maidens, so that was exciting," said Thompson.

Thompson will be reunited with It Happened Again next Saturday in the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. He will also be aboard Just Jenda the same day in the Grade 3 Silverbulletday.

Just Jenda is not the first quality 3-year-old filly Thompson has ridden for Jones. He won the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn in 2003 for Jones on Ruby's Reception. Then came Island Sand, whom Thompson guided to victory in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont in 2004. Last year, Thompson rode the late Eight Belles for Jones in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn. She won by 13 lengths and would go on to run second in the Kentucky Derby.

"I told Larry after I worked her one morning that Eight Belles was probably the best horse that I had ever sat on," Thompson said. "That was the work prior to the Martha Washington. [In the race], her turn of foot from the turn to the top of the stretch was just incredible."

Other top horses Thompson has ridden through the years include Sir Cherokee, winner of the 2003 Arkansas Derby, and the millionaire Sure Shot Biscuit, with whom he won 14 races.

Afleet Deceit may run in Martha Washington

Afleet Deceit, who defeated a field of well-bred older fillies and mares when she won a maiden special weight at Oaklawn on Thursday with a Beyer Speed Figure of 82, could make her next start in the $50,000 Martha Washington for 3-year-old fillies Feb.o15, said her trainer, Terry Gestes.

"There's a pretty good chance of that, if everything stays on good," said Gestes, who trains Afleet Deceit for William Stiritz.

Afleet Deceit won the six-furlong race Thursday by four lengths, defeating a field that included Wings of an Angel, a 4-year-old who had been racing in California, and Lady Mariah, a half-sister to two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow.

* Catmantoo, who won the featured eighth race Thursday, will be nominated to the Gradeo3, $150,000 Razorback Handicap, said his trainer, Tim Ice. The 1 1/16-mile race will be run on March 7. Catmantoo won the $40,000 optional claimer Thursday by a length in his first start since September. For the effort he earned a Beyer Figure of 86.