05/26/2015 1:36PM

Aussie flash Power Alert figures tough in Evangeline Turf Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Power Alert's (right) Twin Spires Turf Sprint was his first graded stakes victory in the United States.

OPELOUSAS, La. – Power Alert, winner of three of his four U.S. starts, is set to square off against defending champ Heitai and six others in Saturday’s $300,000 Evangeline Turf Sprint at Evangeline Downs. The five-furlong dash will anchor an 11-race program which has a first-race post time of 3:05 p.m. Central. The Evangeline Turf Sprint will also be the final leg in a $100,000-guaranteed all-stakes pick four.

Bred in Australia, Power Alert made 13 starts in his home country before a successful U.S. debut at Gulfstream in late December. The 5-year-old Alert gelding went on to capture the Silks Run Stakes there before finishing fourth in the Shakertown at Keeneland in early April. Trained by Brian Lynch, he controlled the pace throughout to win the Grade 3 Turf Sprint on the Kentucky Oaks undercard May 1. Julien Leparoux, aboard for all four of Power Alert’s U.S. starts, will be aboard Saturday from post 1.

Although he finished eighth to Power Alert at Churchill earlier this month, Heitai returns to the scene of the biggest of his 14 wins, having captured the inaugural running of the Turf Sprint here last June. Trained by Tom Amoss, Heitai is a three-time winner in 2015, including the Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint at Sam Houston in late January. Diego Saenz, aboard for last year’s win, returns to the saddle.

Reflector heads up the local contingent for the Turf Sprint. He won the Need for Speed Stakes on May 2 in impressive fashion. Trainer Pat Devereux Jr. has enlisted the services of jockey Roberto Morales.

Completing the field are Snappy Girl, a surprising third in the Turf Sprint last year while facing male opponents; Ty’s Bandit, a three-time winner in 2015 and a dead-heat second in the Need for Speed; Quick Dagger, also involved in the dead heat in the Need for Speed; Gantry, a graded winner who has earned over $850,000 and who will be adding blinkers; and Great Minds, who twice won on the Fair Grounds turf over the winter and who most recently finished a close second in a Keeneland turf sprint last month.

The $100,000 Evangeline Mile, one of four supporting stakes for the Turf Sprint, drew a field of eight and is headed by California invader Mystery Train.

Trained by Darrrell Vienna, Mystery Train ran second in the Grade 3 Mineshaft earlier this year at Fair Grounds before setting the pace and fading to seventh in the Grade 3 Precisionist at Santa Anita in his last start. Vienna has given the call to leading rider Colby Hernandez.

Tensas Harbor, winner of three straight, tops the field for the $100,000 Opelousas Stakes for fillies and mare at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. She will square off against eight rivals, including last year’s Louisiana-bred 3-year-old filly champion Our Quista.

The Acadiana and Lafayette round out Saturday’s stakes lineup and are restricted to Louisiana-breds who have not won a stakes. Each drew a large field and will be contested at seven furlongs over the main track.