Retama Park 2001 Thoroughbred Meet Will Have Cajun Flair

The 2001 Thoroughbred meeting at Retama Park will have a distinctive Louisiana flair and, for the first time, the track will offer an average daily purse structure of $100,000.

Several trainers who usually spend the summer and fall at Louisiana Downs will instead run their horses during Retama Park's 51-day meet that begins August 3 and runs through October 27. Among the trainers that are currently stabled at Retama Park are Gerald Romero and George Northcutt, both of whom brought 28 horses to South Texas rather than heading east from Lone Star Park to Louisiana Downs.

"We are seeing some trainers bring their horses to Retama from Lone Star Park because either they have claimed Texas-bred horses and want to run for those supplements or they feel the race program is better for them down here," said Larry Craft, Retama Park's director of racing. "The fact that we are going to offer $100,000 a day piques some interest among these horsemen, and the availability for easier access to both Sam Houston Race Park and even Fair Grounds is another factor."

Romero and Northcutt will join Danny Pish, Retama Park's leading trainer in 2000; Jerenesto Torrez, who tied for the most wins at Retama last year; and stalwarts Amos Laborde, Tommie Morgan, Berry Germany, John Locke, Jimmy Ray James Hudson and Bubba Cascio.

Many horsemen also are favoring Retama Park because of the sometimes-oppressive heart in other locales, many of which do not have the option of night racing. Heat indexes through the summer at many track's running during the summer months regularly reach triple digits because of the staggering humidity, and horses competing in those conditions often have limited racing opportunities because of what that takes out of them.

Romero is expected to utilize Roman Chapa, the leading jockey the past two years at Retama Park, as his first-call jockey for the meet. Chapa rode first-call for Pish last year, and change could set up an intriguing battle at the top of the standing this season.

The owner race could also be contentious as William Brown, last year's leading owner, will bring a stocked stable to Retama and entrust them to the care of Torrez, who had a breakthrough meet in 2000. Paul Chance's Serenity Hills Farms, who finished second last year will again attempt to dominate the claiming ranks as he and trainer Jimmy Ray did in 2000, and the battle should be spirited.

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