06/23/2003 12:00AM

Upset winner Pager eyes Claiming Crown next


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Pager, who pulled the biggest upset of the night in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship at Lone Star Park on Friday, is headed to the Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park.

He will run in the $50,000 Express at six furlongs on July 19, said his trainer, C.W. "Bubba" Cascio.

Pager won a prep for that race one start before his 19-1 score in the first leg of the Jockey Championship.

A rail-skimming, gutsy ride by Shane Sellers helped put Pager ($40.80) in the winner's circle in Friday's $10,000 starter allowance.

"When he came back to the winner's circle I told Shane, 'You've rode a lot better horses, but you never rode a better race,' " said Cascio.

Cascio said Pager has matured this year since turning 4.

"He just seems to be getting better," he said. "We started spacing his races a month apart, and he has responded real well."

Pager will have at least 30 days between races, going into the Claiming Crown.

Sellers, who won the 1998 Jockey Championship, finished second this year behind Edgar Prado.

It seems all Prado does when he comes to Lone Star is win. In addition to picking up his second Jockey Championship title on Friday, he won the Grade 3, $500,000 Lone Star Derby last month with Dynever.

The Jockey Championship completed its contract run at Lone Star on Friday, and track officials and the National Jockeys' Guild plan to discuss a new one in the next 30 days, according to Corey Johnsen, the president of Lone Star.

Lone Star is the only home the Jockey Championship has known in its seven years of existence.

Proctor, Asmussen in Texas Hall

The late trainer Willard Proctor is one of six who will be inducted into the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame at Retama Park on Oct. 4. Others are former jockey Cash Asmussen, Allen Bogan, Ott Adams and horses Two Altazano and Three Oh's.

Proctor, who was born in Lampassas, Texas, trained 58 stakes winners, among them major winners Convenience, a two-time winner of the Vanity Handicap, Lovlier Linda and Gallant Romeo.

Asmussen, a resident of Laredo, Texas, was a five-time champion jockey in France. His younger brother, Lone Star trainer Steve Asmussen, was the nation's leading trainer in wins in 2002.

Bogan, who died in 1997, covered racing for newspapers in North Texas for close to 60 years, while Adams, also deceased, was an influential breeder of Quarter Horses.

Two Altazano, a Texas-bred, won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Three Oh's, a Quarter Horse, won the All-American Futurity in 1968.

Stalking suits Salem Avenue

Salem Avenue, who has stepped up her game since she began racing from a little farther off the pace, is well-spotted in an entry-level allowance for fillies and mares on turf Wednesday night at Lone Star.

The filly has won four races, more than any of her rivals in the one-mile race. Her chief rivals appear to be Bittersweetreality and Rum Bird.

Salem Avenue was third at this level in her last start, beaten 3 1/4 lengths by quality filly Milligram on May 31. Before that, she won a wide-open claiming race on turf, scoring by more than four lengths at a mile on turf April 10.

Paul Murphy, who trains Salem Avenue for Sandstone Racing, has given the mount to Jeremy Beasley.

* Former jockey agent Mark Parker returned to training horses earlier this year, and on Sunday won a race with Lil General ($9.20), who was ridden by one of his former clients, Roman Chapa. Other top regional riders represented by Parker, who is based in Houston, included Steve Bourque.

* The whip jockey Mike Smith carried while riding Azeri to victory in the Grade 1 Vanity on Saturday brought $1,500 at a benefit auction Friday at Lone Star. At the auction, it was announced Smith would carry it the following day on Azeri, then mail it back to Lone Star.