08/14/2008 12:00AM

Candy Ball tops among six last-out winners


All is well in Candy Ball's world as she prepares for a start in the $75,000 Honeymoon at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, but the same cannot be said for her trainer, Andrew Leggio Jr. He checked himself into a hospital last weekend after feeling chest pains, and was to have heart bypass surgery on Friday.

"I'll be in intensive care as she's running," said Leggio. "She's doing fine. Everything's in order. All my assistant has to do is bring her over there and put the saddle on her."

Leggio was on hand for Candy Ball's final work for the Honeymoon last weekend at Louisiana Downs. She will start as a strong favorite in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, which is one of four stakes worth a cumulative $325,000 on the card Saturday. All of the races are preps for Super Derby Day stakes at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 20.

The Honeymoon should produce starters for the $100,000 River Cities. It drew a field of 11, and six won their last start. Among them are Nice Inheritance, who captured the $60,000 Matron Handicap at Evangeline Downs; Royal Madame, who upset Tortuga Flats in the $100,000 Matchmaker for statebred fillies and mares on turf on Aug. 2; and Pleasantly Blessed, an impressive winner of a $50,000 optional claiming race for fillies and mares on turf July 3.

But the most significant last-out win from a handicapping standpoint was Candy Ball's. She defeated males in the $50,000 Independence at a mile on turf at Louisiana Downs in her last start on July 5. She was favored, and was a clear winner, scoring by 2o3/4 lengths. Candy Ball earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92, which is the best last-race number in the Honeymoon.

"She's coming into the race well," said Leggio, adding that he, too, felt quite good on Thursday. "We'll just go from there and see what happens."

Francisco Torres, who rode Candy Ball in the Independence, has the mount in the Honeymoon.

Full fields for 2-year-old stakes

The $75,000 Sunny's Halo and the $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial, a pair of one-mile turf races for

2-year-olds on Saturday, both drew full fields. The races will serve as preps for next month's Sunday Silence and Happy Ticket, each worth $150,000.

The Sunny's Halo drew 12 colts and geldings, and most of them have proven turf form. But it is two starters who yet to race on turf, or at two turns, who could get a good deal of attention. Marquee Event, who is a half-brother to Grade 2 Arkansas Derby winner Gayego, enters the Sunny's Halo off a sharp debut win at 5 1/2 furlongs July 26.

"We could have run at Remington Park in the Clever Trevor, but it's a one-turn race and we want to get him two turns," said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Marquee Event.

The horse is a son of Marquetry, a Grade 1 winner on turf. Von Hemel has given the mount to Cliff Berry.

The other first-time turf starter of interest in the Sunny's Halo is King Gulch, who was second in the $60,000 Middleground at six furlongs at Lone Star Park in his last start July 27. He is out of the mare Parade Queen, who was a multiple Grade 3 winner on turf. Donnie Meche has the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Smokin Again is the one to beat in the Wilhite, for fillies, following her 1 1/4-length score in the $51,000 Princess at five furlongs on turf at Louisiana Downs on July 19. She stalked and pounced for the win, and has been flattered since with the runner-up, Run Don't Stroll, returning in her next start to win the $75,000 Laurel Lane at Louisiana Downs. Charlie Hukill trains Smokin Again and has given the mount to Kirk LeBlanc.