06/10/2008 11:00PM

Torres off to a clean start in his return


BOSSIER CITY, La. - While jockey Patrick Valenzuela's latest comeback has garnered considerable attention at the Louisiana Downs meet, fellow rider Francisco Torres also has battled back from drug abuse. While Valenzuela had won 1 race from 19 mounts at the meet entering Thursday's card, Torres found himself on top of the rider standings with 12 wins from 61 mounts.

Suspended by the Illinois Racing Board last July for violating its substance abuse policy, Torres returned to riding this past spring at Evangeline Downs after being granted a license by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. That license came with conditions that Torres readily follows.

"I breathalyze every day," said Torres. "Urine tests, whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. I'm just thankful that the stewards and the racing commission saw fit to give me another chance."

"Both Patrick and Francisco have been very cooperative," said state steward Roy Wood Jr. "They each have done everything asked of them. The situation has been nothing but positive so far."

A 38-year-old native of Mexico, Torres scored his second three-bagger of the meet, which began on May 17. His book is being handled by Derek Ducoing, son of veteran trainer Sturges Ducoing.

"We are very pleased with the start," Torres said. "Derek and I won a few races at Evangeline before the meeting started here, and that momentum has carried over up here."

While he still calls Chicago home, Torres says that Louisiana will be his home away from home, at least for the foreseeable future.

"I had some Louisiana owners contact me about coming back here," he said. "The plan is to finish at Louisiana Downs and then head on to New Orleans and the Fair Grounds."

Torres went on to say that his relationship with Ducoing also is the direct result of strong Louisiana connections.

Torres said that Sean Alfortish, the head of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, had introduced him to Ducoing, and that "so far, things have worked out great."

Tiger Monarch the speed of feature

In Friday's $32,000 allowance feature, which is for Louisiana-breds going a mile and 70 yards, the stakes winners Willist, Magic Sunset, Grand Minit, and St. Zarb will mix it up.

Tiger Monarch also goes, and rates as the one to catch after a wire-to-wire victory on the main track at Evangeline Downs in early May.

Tommy's Turn is returning to the oval that has yielded him a 2-1-1 record from just 4 starts.