07/01/2009 11:00PM

Chess match livens Legends Night


OPELOUSAS, La. - This year's Louisiana Legends Night at Evangeline Downs promises to be bigger and better than ever. The addition of turf racing to this year's edition adds depth and intrigue to what is already Evangeline's biggest night of the year. Almost $1 million in purse money will be up for grabs when the 10-stakes, all-Louisiana-bred program gets under way at 6:20 p.m. Central.

The turf is at least partially responsible for one of the more interesting subplots of this year's Legends Night. Two-time Louisiana horse of the year Costa Rising has been entered in both the $100,000 Attaway Darbonne at 1 1/16 miles on the grass and the $100,000 Pola Benoit at the same distance on the main track. Trainer Bill Mott has done the same with his multiple stakes winner Desert Wheat.

Neither camp is eager to reveal their true intentions, but it would seem Desert Wheat, who has won eight times on the grass compared with just once on the dirt, would be more likely to go in the Darbonne. It is worth noting, however, that Desert Wheat did finish second to Lawyer Ron in the $100,000 Diamond Jo Stakes over the main track here when both were 3-year-olds in 2006. Mott has given the riding assignment to Pat Valenzuela regardless of which surface he opts for.

The majority of Costa Rising's success, and more than $900,000 in earnings, has come on dirt, but the Glenn Delahoussaye trainee prepped for Legend's Night with a near-miss in allowance company on the turf here May 1. A crowd favorite, he missed all of his 5-year-old season in 2008 with an ankle injury but is showing signs of regaining past form. Regular rider Kerwin Clark will once again be in the saddle on Saturday.

Superior Storm returning home

Superior Storm, a winner of 11 of 18 career starts, returns to her home state and the comfort of fellow Louisiana-breds in the $100,000 Archie Sebastien at a mile and 70 yards on the main track.

A 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic filly trained by Rick Jackson, Superior Storm has enjoyed another solid campaign in 2009. She began the season by winning the $150,000 Premier Distaff against statebreds at Delta Downs, then defeated last year's champion 3-year-old filly Proud Spell in an optional allowance at Oaklawn Park. Jackson then make the bold move of placing her in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, also at Oaklawn, where she finished a solid second. Superior Storm also reported home second in the Grade 3 Ouija Board at Lone Star Park on May 25 in her first start on turf. Luis Quinonez will once again handle the riding chores on Superior Storm, the prohibitive favorite.

Asmussen deep in two divisions

There will be the usual interest in 2-year-olds on Legends Night. with the two divisions of the $100,000-added D. S. "Shine" Young Futurity.

One has to look no further than the ever-present Steve Asmussen barn to find the bulk of the major contenders. Asmussen sent out the winners of three of the four qualifying trials in the filly division and will also have three representatives in the colt-and-gelding division.