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Robby Reflects on Cusp of Rider Record

Headlines for Friday, March 27, 2009

  • Robby Reflects on Cusp of Rider Record
  • Asmussen Tops Last Season's Monster Campaign
  • Heiligbrodt Racing Returns to Top of Fair Grounds Owners
  • Longtime Louisiana Trainer Harold Delahoussaye Retires


Robby Reflects on Cusp of Rider Record

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Officially, this meeting's leading rider honors are still undecided, but six-time Fair Grounds leader Robby Albarado entered the final three days of the season with a nine-win advantage over 2007-08 leading rider Jamie Theriot.

Assuming nothing unforeseen happens before the Crescent City oval closes the doors on its 2008-09 season Sunday, Albarado will become the first rider in the history of North America's third oldest racecourse to win seven riding titles over the local surface. Presently, he is tied with former jockey Ronald Ardoin with six titles officially on the books

"It would be pretty special to get in the record books with (a seventh) title," said Albarado Friday morning. "It's something that's never been done throughout the long history of Fair Grounds. Naturally, it would mean even more to me because I was born here (Lafayette, Louisiana) and grew up around here. I've known about the history of Fair Grounds all my life."

Ardoin won his first title at Fair Grounds' 1981-82 session, secured leading rider honors a second time during 1985-86, and then won four straight titles during the meetings that ended in 1993-96.

Albarado won his first Fair Grounds championship at the 1997-98 session (with Ardoin as runner-up), repeated the next two seasons, and returned as champion in the local sessions that ended in 2003-05.

However, despite riding Mineshaft and Curlin to Horse of the Year titles, and the latter also to victory in the Preakness, a win in the Kentucky Derby still eludes Albarado - and remains a high priority among his goals.

"I'm still keeping my fingers crossed I could do it this year," said Albarado when asked for an update of his possibilities at the present time.

"I've been riding a horse called Danger to Society for Mr. (Rick) Dutrow," Albarado said. "As for Patena (second in Fair Grounds' Grade III Lecomte Stakes but eighth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby), I'm not sure what happened to him that last time. Maybe the track condition hurt him. I still think he's a good horse. I'm sure they'll continue to evaluate him."


Asmussen Tops Last Season's Monster Campaign

While the leading jockey race is technically still not over, there is no such drama in Fair Grounds' trainer standings - and there hasn't been for quite some time.

For the eighth closing weekend in the last nine seasons, Eclipse Award winner Steve Asmussen will claim leading trainer honors in New Orleans.

Asmussen won his 87th race of the meet in Friday's fourth race with Maggi Moss' Gypsy Trial, which allowed the Texas native not only to top his win total of the 2007-08 meet, but to match his feat of last year in averaging better than one win per day at Fair Grounds.

Still a possibility is Jack Van Berg's single-season record of 92 wins.

"We didn't have the big horse like last year (with Louisiana Derby winner Pyro)," said Asmussen, "but we ran well."

Asmussen will accept his eighth leading trainer award in the last nine years on Saturday. He will head back to Texas Saturday night for a horse sale early next week.

Another repeat performance for Asmussen this season was a six-win day on Jan. 17, which came with wife Julie and his three sons in attendance.

"They got to be here for that day, and they were here for Louisiana Derby Day, when we won three," said Asmussen.

Asmussen, who broke his own national record by saddling 622 winners in 2008, leads all North American trainers again this season with 139 winners and $4.09 million in purse earnings through Thursday.

Van Berg's 10 Fair Grounds titles is the most by any trainer, one more than Tom Amoss and two more than Asmussen.


Heiligbrodt Racing Returns to Top of Fair Grounds Owners

Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt of Heiligbrodt Racing Stable are a comfortable seven wins front of last year's leading owners, Heflin & Driver Racing, with three racing days to go in the current season.

However, earlier in the season, the Heiligbrodt's confessed to another goal.

"We have a goal of winning a million dollars in purse earnings," said Bill Heiligbrodt. "I don't know if anyone has ever done that before."

As of Friday morning, the Heiligbrodt stable had amassed $991,071.

Heiligbrodt Racing shared the 2005-06 owner's title at the abbreviated Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs with Maggi Moss. Each had six wins that season.


Longtime Louisiana Trainer Harold Delahoussaye Retires

Louisiana-born conditioner Harold Delahoussaye, who was leading trainer at Jefferson Downs five straight years in the 1980s and runner-up to Tom Amoss at Fair Grounds at the 1991-92 session, has announced his retirement after saddling his last starter March 21.

"I'm recovering from a little bout of congestive heart failure," said Delahoussaye, 66, born in New Iberia. "I'm not crazy about giving up training. It's all I've ever done, but you got to do what you got to do. I feel a lot better than I did a few weeks ago, but my doctor told me I've got to eliminate stress. Driving between Lafayette and New Orleans all the time is a large part of that. That kind of thing isn't too good for me."

Delahoussaye, a cousin of Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, recalled their time together in the first part of their careers. "One year at Evangeline, we slept in the same tack room for about a whole meet," Harold Delahoussaye said.

"The year I finished second to Tom Amoss here at Fair Grounds, I just couldn't keep up with him the last few days of the meeting," Delahoussaye said. "He just had too many horses."

Delahoussaye retires after saddling 1,653 winners from 10,544 starters, according to Daily Racing Form statistics. He also posted 1,387 seconds and 1,222 thirds in a training career that began in 1967, and recorded purse earnings of $9,253,054.