08/25/2006 12:00AM

Big field likely in Prelude


BOSSIER CITY, La. - With the Labor Day weekend coming next week, the time draws near for one of the most interesting and anticipated races of the Louisiana Downs meet, the $100,000 Prelude Stakes.

Run on Friday, the 1 1/16-mile Prelude has more at stake for 3-year-olds than merely the purse money, which has doubled from last year. The winner also automatically receives an all-fees-paid berth in the Super Derby here on Sept. 23.

In addition, the second- through fourth-place finishers automatically will be nominated to the Super Derby if their connections have not already nominated them.

The Prelude is designed to give the region's late-developing 3-year-olds a chance against some of the nation's best in the division, and previous winners have done quite well. One of the most memorable Prelude winners is Free Spirit's Joy, who went on to beat Olympio and Best Pal in the Super Derby.

Costa Rising, widely regarded as the best of the state's crop of 2003 foals after stretching his recent winning streak to six races, will not start in the Prelude. He ran in last Saturday's Louisiana Breeders' Derby as a final prep for a possible Super Derby start.

His absence leaves the Prelude wide open, and business has been brisk with regard to nominations, according to stakes coordinator Joe Peluso, who expected to have about 30 runners nominated by Friday's deadline.

Among trainers who have expressed interest in the race are: Brandon Marks, who nominated the rapidly developing Follow the Storm, a winner of his last four races, all at Evangeline Downs; Tony Richey, who nominated Louisborg, a winner of two of his three races, including his debut here in early June; and Bret Calhoun, who nominated His Eyes, who took off most of the summer following a front-running score in the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star Park in July.

No Racing Thursday

With racing scheduled for Labor Day Monday of next week, this Thursday will be dark.

After Friday's Prelude Stakes, the featured races next weekend include Saturday's $75,000 Sport City at 1 1/16 miles on the grass for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000 Total Rewards Breeders' Cup on Monday at five furlongs on the turf.