05/13/2008 11:00PM

Big names running on opening day

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Some of the best Louisiana-breds in training will help open the Louisiana Downs meet on Saturday. The track has carded six statebred stakes worth a cumulative $300,000 for its opening-day program.

The 10-race card was drawn on Wednesday, and among horses entered were the stakes winners Tortuga Flats, Desert Wheat, Raspberry Wine, Tensas Yucatan, Brother Bean, St. Zarb, and Hisse.

"We wanted to come out of the gate full steam ahead," said Doug Bredar, the racing secretary at Louisiana Downs. "We wanted to make it a card where people notice, 'Hey, Louisiana Downs is open again.'"

Louisiana Downs, in Bossier City, La., will begin its 35th season of racing on Saturday. The home of the Super Derby, it will run an 85-day meet through Oct. 18. For the opening-day card, the fields are large and competitive.

Willist, Wildrally, and Desert Wheat, who finished one-two-three in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds in December, meet again Saturday in the $50,000 John Franks Memorial. The one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up will go as race 10.

The stakes races start in race 5, with stakes winners Hisse and Superior Storm cutting back to one turn in the $50,000 Fantasia. The six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies also drew Go Atm, the winner of the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks at Fair Grounds in March for trainer Wes Hawley.

Cubera, who won a stakes the last time he raced around one turn, will cut back to six furlongs for the $50,000 Free Spirit's Joy. Trained by Steve Asmussen, he will add blinkers for the race for 3-year-olds. Other top contenders include Lee's Spirit, Doble Quebrado, and Pantara Phantom.

Tortuga Flats, who is 6 for 7 over the turf course at Louisiana Downs, runs in the $50,000 Seven Stars. The one-mile turf race for fillies and mare also drew Raspberry Wine, a multiple stakes winner of $472,711. Ralph Irwin trains Tortuga Flats, who will be ridden by Kirk LeBlanc.

John Charles is moving back into statebred company for the $50,000 Big Earl after winning the $60,000 Need for Speed at Evangeline Downs in his last start May 2. The Big Earl, for 3-year-olds and up at 5 1/2 furlongs, also drew stakes winners Bandido, Ceasers March, Brother Bean, Tortuga Straits, and St. Zarb.

The sprint counterpart for fillies and mares is the $50,000 Powder Doll led by the Pat Mouton-trained Ida Marie.

Post for the first race is 1:15 p.m. Central.