02/03/2005 1:00AM

Bet Crimson Stag in Prince - then go cash


Saturday morning in New Orleans, Crimson Stag will be loaded onto a horse trailer at Fair Grounds and travel west to Delta Downs in Vinton, La., where he will race that evening on Louisiana Premier Night in the $125,000 Prince. If the van driver can find his way to Delta, and Crimson Stag manages not to fall down, victory is nearly assured.

The Prince is at seven furlongs for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds, and Crimson Stag has cemented a spot as the best one of those horses out there. After clearing the maiden ranks last summer at Saratoga, Crimson Stag crushed fellow Louisiana-breds twice at Fair Grounds, first winning the Champions Day Juvenile by more than three lengths, then taking the Jan. 8 Crescent City Derby by a measured length. Crimson Stag can come from off the pace in a sprint, and, as he proved in the Crescent City, use his speed to great effect at two turns. At seven furlongs, the Prince is well within Crimson Stag's scope, and according to trainer Dallas Stewart, this is not a colt who will be thrown off by shipping or racing under the lights for the first time.

"We're just going to take him down there and try to whip them," said Stewart, who trains Crimson Stag for West Point Thoroughbreds.

In the Crescent City, St. Roch tried to run with Crimson Stag early and wound up nowhere. Surgeon of Choice tried to make a run at him coming into the stretch and faded. If any horse can upset the favorite, perhaps it is the locally based Grande Diablo, who easily won an allowance sprint Jan. 8 in what appears to have been a strong prep for the Prince.

Sprint: Archeval needs her best

Archeval began 2004 in a $10,000 nonwinners-of-three claiming race and ended it with a powerhouse front-end victory in the $100,000 Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds. Somewhere between those two poles lies Archeval's typical performance level; the question is whether that will be enough to defeat the relentlessly improving Lac Laronge and six others in the $100,000 Sprint.

Archeval, who grew steadily stronger as 2004 progressed, overcame post 11 to win last time, but Saturday night he has the rail, an excellent spot for a speedster in a five-furlong dash. Archeval might make the front, but can he stay there under heavy pace pressure to his outside?

Archeval cannot falter and still beat Lac Lorange, who was second in the Champions Day Sprint but might now be a better horse. Since his loss to Archeval, Lac Lorange has won an open turf-sprint allowance and beaten the talented Meteor Impact in a Louisiana allowance. From post 3, Lac Lorange should be hot on the heels of Archeval from the start.

Zarb's Luck, a blowout winner of this race in 2004, has been a shell of his former self in three recent starts and would need a sharp form reversal to keep up with the top pair.

Distaff: Destiny Calls defends title

The unbeaten statebred star Happy Ticket will not continue her remarkable run in the $150,000 Distaff, but only because she will not ship from Fair Grounds for the race. Happy Ticket, who overmatches the other horses in her division, is on her way back from a minor ankle injury, and her absence paves the way for Destiny Calls to win her second straight Premier Night Distaff. Destiny Calls, who scratched from a Fair Grounds allowance race last week in favor of this spot, lost by four lengths to Happy Ticket on Louisiana Champions Day at Fair Grounds, but is an excellent Louisiana-bred in her own right, with nine wins in 14 starts. Destiny Calls, owned by Vickie Krantz, trained by Gary Palmisano, and ridden by Robby Albarado, does her best route-racing work from the front end, and that is where she should wind up Saturday night. Legs O'Neal, who has speed and the rail, could provide the stiffest competition.

Matron: Our Love is ready

Trainer Jeff Trosclair gallops many of his own horses in the morning, and this week, he traveled across Louisiana, from Fair Grounds to Delta Downs, to do just that. Trosclair wanted Our Love to get a feel for the Delta track surface before she races on it Saturday night in the $100,000 Matron, a race Our Love will be expected to win off a strong performance against open company in the Leggio Handicap last month at Fair Grounds.

"She was gliding over the track today," Trosclair said, brimming with confidence. "I tell you what, this filly's on tilt right now."

Tilt will be too much for Our Love's opponents to handle, even if Our Love is a stronger sprinter on turf than dirt.

The others to watch - and who will be watching the backside of Our Love if she breaks well from an inside post - are Where Is My Daddy, Light Fling, and Von Braun.

Starlet: 'Equestrian' works say 'go'

Equestrian Girls was clearly best in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie, and if she runs to her recent workouts, Equestrian Girls will win her second straight Louisiana stakes race in the $125,000 Starlet for 3-year-old fillies.

Equestrian Girls has worked four times since her convincing Fair Grounds stakes win, and each breeze has been notably fast.

"She's had some really good works," said trainer Kelly Broussard. "She's been breaking better and staying out of trouble, and that's really helped."

Never worse than third in six career starts, Equestrian Girls has tactical speed and a rate-and-rally style that should play well in the Starlet, where several speed horses are entered. Perhaps the quickest of them will be Shady Caller, who won a Fair Grounds sprint allowance race by almost 10 lengths in her most recent start.