11/24/2004 12:00AM

'Wally' gives Biehler a boost


Trainer Mike Biehler is 1 for 1 in graded stakes after sending out Wally's Choice to a 33-1 upset in the Grade 3, $167,000 Oklahoma Derby on Sunday. The win was Biehler's seventh in a stakes in 2004 and helped lift him to his best year in stable earnings.

Wally's Choice has won four stakes this year and closed from last to first in the Oklahoma Derby.

"He came back good," said Biehler. "We had planned on turning him out after that race, but I'm not sure what we'll do right now. The owners were out of the country, and I hadn't talked to them yet."

Wally's Choice races for the partnership of Joyce and Wally McNeil and Curtis Sampson, president of Canterbury Park in Minnesota. Biehler divides his time between Canterbury and Remington. He develops young horses during his downtime and has about 30 in training at a farm in Oklahoma. He also has a stable of 10 horses based at Remington, which closes out its meet Dec. 5.

"I'm going to stay in Oklahoma and break babies and run a few at Oaklawn," he said. "I'm not moving the stable anywhere."

Biehler has won 36 races this year and has stable earnings of $740,885. Last year, he won 34 races and had stable earnings of $514,485.

Wally's Choice paid $69.80 as the longest-priced winner of the Oklahoma Derby, eclipsing the 22-1 victory by Smilin Singin Sam in 1994. One start before the Oklahoma Derby, Wally's Choice won the $25,000 Woodlands Derby.

"I was really impressed," said Biehler of Wally's Choice's race in the Oklahoma Derby. "The other times he'd run long he ran good and it didn't seem to take that much out of him. That's the only reason we gave him a chance."

Luis Quinonez rode Wally's Choice, who gave Quinonez his first win in the Oklahoma Derby.

Stable area opens at Oaklawn

Oaklawn will open its stable area on Wednesday and the track should have a full backstretch when its 55-date meet opens Jan. 21. Trainers requested stalls for 2,800 horses for the upcoming meet. The track's stable area holds 1,500.

With the Arkansas Derby purse again worth $1 million, the meet is expected to draw top-flight young horses. Among those expected to reside on the backstretch this meet are Afleet Alex, Rockport Harbor, Three Hour Nap, Elusive Chris, Greater Good, and Western Acres.

Aside from Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner, and prominent trainer D. Wayne Lukas, other new faces expected for the meet are Patrick Daly, who is a former assistant to Ken McPeek, Grant Hofmans, and Steve Amshoff.

Purses at the meet will average a record $250,000 a day, said Pat Pope, racing secretary at Oaklawn.

Catalog of 270 to sell at Lone Star

A total of 270 horses have been cataloged to the Texas December mixed sale, which will be held on the Lone Star Park backstretch Dec. 12. The sale is put on by Fasig-Tipton, and among its sessions will be the breeding stock reduction of Turf Express Stud Inc.

The sale will feature broodmares, weanlings, and horses of racing age. Among the offerings are the broodmare Valid Pache, a full sister to Grade 3 winners Little Sister and Valid Expectations. Valid Expectations is one of the top stallions in the Southwest. Consignors include Roger Daly, Diamond D Ranch, and Lane's End Texas.

Charming Socialite to Conroe

Charming Socialite, who won the $50,000 Spirit of Texas over older statebreds last Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park, will return to racing with straight 3-year-olds for his next start, said trainer Bill Pettit.

Charming Socialite is being pointed for the $40,000 Conroe at Sam Houston on Dec. 11.

He has stepped up his game in recent months, and in October won the $100,000 Alysheba over Bwana Charlie, who in his next start went on to finish fourth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint. It was a huge win for Charming Socialite.

"We had worked him with some lesser horses and it built his heart up," said Pettit. "He's got confidence, and the jock has confidence in him, and that makes a world of difference."

* Delta has launched a weekly television program in its market area called "Around the Downs," which runs each Saturday following the early NCAA football game on Fox 29 in Lake Charles, La., and Fox-64 in Beaumont, Texas. The show includes stakes previews and features and is hosted by Delta announcer Don Stevens.

* Jo Ann Weber, the executive director of the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, died Monday following a long battle with cancer. She was 70. Weber planned the annual gala for the Hall inductions and before the post worked with the Texas Thoroughbred Association. A service is scheduled for Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in Lockhart, Texas.

* Sam Houston had 1,400 entrants in a $2,500 online handicapping contest last Saturday. Mark Bertolucci of California won the first-place prize of $1,000.