12/07/2005 12:00AM

$1M going to statebreds, so entries are plentiful

Louis Hodges Jr.
Zarb's Dahar (above) wins the Thanksgiving Handicap against open company, running his record to 10 for 11 over the Louisiana Downs surface. Witt Ante is back to defend his title in the Champions Day Classic.

Bossier City, La. - Neither wind nor rain nor snow or sleet can stop this year's Louisiana Champions Day. Hurricane Katrina was responsible for forcing the Fair Grounds meeting north to Louisiana Downs, and a winter storm expected Wednesday night is providing the latest meteorological drama.

Undaunted, Louisiana horsemen responded en masse through the entry box Wednesday morning as a total of 94 horses were entered for Saturday's three Quarter Horse and seven Thoroughbred races for Louisiana-breds that offer $1 million in purses. First post is the usual 12:25 p.m. Central , with the forecast calling for clearing skies and moderating temperatures.

will put his remarkable 10-for-11 local record on the line in the Champions Day Sprint as he takes on seven rivals. Trained by James "Sweet" Hodges, Zarb's Dahar most recently won the Thanksgiving Day Handicap against open company in impressive fashion as the even-money favorite. He also won the Folklore and Cajun stakes during the regular Louisiana Downs meeting.

is back to defend his title in the Classic after a solid string of efforts on the turf. Trained by Larry Robideaux Jr., Witt Ante took a similar course last year en route to his upset victory. Regular rider Tracy Hebert will be aboard.

Two-time Champions Day Turf winner, , also returns but will be making his first start since finishing unplaced against allowance company at Woodbine in May. Trainer Josie Carroll anticipated getting a prep into the hard-knocking 7-year-old Mr. Sulu here last month, but the horse was delegated to also-eligible status in the optional claiming affair. Spruce's Prince was an impressive winner of that event and rides a three-race win streak into Saturday's race.

The Ladies appears to be the most contentious race on the program, as it has brought together 10 fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Seven of the entrants are stakes winners, including The Beter Man Can, Merry Mary, and last year's Lassie winner, Equestrian Girls.

heads up the Juvenile fresh off a runaway win in the Bayouland Sales Stakes at Evangeline last week. A speedy son of Gold Tribute, Voodoo Gold has won 4 of his 7 starts and is trained by perennial Louisiana Downs training champ Cole Norman. He faces a less-seasoned but talented group of eight foes, including recent allowance winners Carson Bay and Nob Hill Deelite.

The Lassie, for 2-year-old fillies, appears to be an evenly matched race with stakes winners Tortuga Flats, Leestown Light, and Sixteen Grand expected to vie for the role of favorite.