08/07/2002 12:00AM

Ark-La-Tex under belt, Prince Iroquois off to Claim Crown


For the second straight year leading trainer Cole Norman has turned a former $25,000 claimer into a stakes winner in the Ark-La-Tex Handicap at Louisiana Downs, in Bossier City, La.

In 2001 he did it with Unrullah Bull, who after the Ark-La-Tex went on to win this year's Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile.

This year, Prince Iroquois turned the trick by winning Saturday's Ark-La-Tex, and as a result he will now be pointed to the Claiming Crown at Philadelphia Park on Aug. 31. His race, the $150,000 Jewel, is the richest of the six stakes that make up the Crown.

Prince Iroquois, who started for a claiming price of $25,000 in January, was prominent throughout the Ark-La-Tex, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. "He ran a strong race," Norman said.

Norman trains Prince Iroquois for Turf Express, which claimed the horse, a winner of $243,156, for $40,000 in February. A few months afterward, Prince Iroquois went on to finish a game second to Congaree in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap. He then secured his first stakes win in the Ark-La-Tex.

No West Nile in north Louisiana

Of the 118 confirmed equine cases of West Nile virus in Louisiana, none has been reported in the northern half of the state, according to Dr. Maxwell Lea, state veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Animal Health and Agriculture.

That's good news for Louisiana Downs, which is located in northwestern Louisiana. But despite the fact that there are no infected horses in the region, the track is taking precautions. "The city has been spraying at least two times a week on the backstretch," said Ray Tromba, general manager of Louisiana Downs. "It's just to be safe, a preventative situation."

It is not known whether any of the 118 horses infected are racehorses.

West Nile, a mosquito-borne disease, has hit Louisiana harder than any other state. As of Tuesday, officials reported 71 known human cases in the state, which is seeking federal aid from President George W. Bush.

So far, five humans in Louisiana who tested positive for West Nile have died, including former jockey Steve Theall.

Political Whit colt tops sale

A yearling colt from the first crop of Political Whit, a Louisiana Downs stakes winner, topped the mixed sale put on by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' Sales Co. last Sunday.

Trainer Henry Johnson successfully bid $16,000 for the bay colt, who is out of former Johnson trainee Mollie's Silver.

Johnson also trained Political Whit, a nine-time stakes winner who captured the 1996 running of the Kings Court at Louisiana Downs.

No changes for 2003

Louisiana Downs has asked the Louisiana Racing Commission for an 80-day meet in 2003, racing on a mostly Thursday-to-Sunday basis from June 27 to Nov. 9. The dates, which are almost identical to the current meet, are expected to be finalized at the next commission meeting Aug. 16.

* Electrode, who remained perfect in three starts this year with his 2 1/4-length win in the $40,000 Airline last Sunday, will stretch out around two turns for the first time this year in the $50,000 Prelude on Aug. 31, said trainer Cole Norman. Norman also plans to start Remember the Party, runner-up in the Airline, in the Prelude.

* Miss Ritz, a stakes winner in both her starts this year, had been under consideration for the $40,000 Dixie Miss on Saturday. But she is entered in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance Friday night at Retama Park instead.

* Louisiana Downs does not plan to card any turf races this weekend because the course is being aerated and fertilized to preserve it for the remainder of the meet, which runs into November.