Updated on 09/15/2011 1:13PM

Coach Rags returns in Breeders' Festival

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Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., drew full fields for the first half of its fourth annual Breeders' Festival, a two-day series of eight statebred stakes worth more than $360,000. The male divisions of the races are to be run Saturday, with the female ranks to follow Sunday.

Coach Rags, Oak Hall, Caro's Royalty, Prince Slew, Early Goer, and White Star are among the top horses set to run Saturday in the four stakes offered: the $60,000 Shiskabob for 3-year-olds and up over 1 1/16 miles on turf; the $60,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby over 1 1/16 miles on the main track; the $35,000 Cajun for 3-year-olds and up over six furlongs; and the $35,000 Stardust for 2-year-olds over six furlongs. The races are all restricted to horses bred in Louisiana.

Coach Rags, a two-time stakes winner, is making his first start back from a six-month layoff in the Shiskabob. He faces a field of 12 turf specialists in the race, including Caro's Royalty, a winner of $527,885 who removes blinkers Saturday, and the more seasoned Big Red Sauce and One Brick Shy.

Coach Rags has five career wins, all on turf against tougher rivals than he will meet in this race. He has worked well for his return, and trainer Gary Palmisano has given the mount to Gerard Melancon.

Sprinters clash in Cajun

Oak Hall, who has won two stakes races in his last three starts, returns to sprinting, and racing with statebreds, in the Cajun. Last year, Oak Hall won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds by three lengths, and has since had a productive year, winning an allowance race and two stakes in seven starts in 2001. He cuts back to one of his better distances, six furlongs, for the Cajun after racing over a mile in his last start, which came against open rivals in the $75,000 Evangeline Mile on Aug. 18. Leading rider Kirk LeBlanc has the mount on the gelding for trainer Doyle Wardrop.

If Oak Hall is vulnerable in his first start back from a two-month layoff, he could fall prey to the more seasoned Early Goer, who finished a half-length behind Oak Hall in second when the two last met in the Evangeline Downs Sprint Championship on June 23. Ronald Ardoin has the mount on the gelding for trainer Bradley Cathey.

A bitter equine rivalry

Pink Duck, who tried to bite Sky Mart in deep stretch when the two last met in an allowance race Sept. 22, will face that rival again in the Derby. Pink Duck won their first meeting in August, while Sky Mart got the upper hand last out, winning by a neck in the slop, all while avoiding the jaws of Pink Duck.

Their biggest threat could be Prince Slew, a multiple stakes winning sprinter who rated kindly in his last start when second in a two-turn allowance race Sept. 16 at Louisiana Downs.

Stardust could cure seconditis

Rapide, who has finished second in all six of his career starts, will try to break through with a win in the Stardust. His biggest competition could come from Walk in the Snow, who defeated Rapide two starts ago, and returned in his last start to romp by nine lengths in an open company allowance race at Louisiana Downs. He covered six furlongs in a rapid 1:10.33 in that race.

Rapide has spent much of his career chasing perhaps the top Louisiana-bred juvenile in training, Hail to Bag. Undefeated, the colt has bested Rapide three times: by five lengths in a trial for the D.S. "Shine" Young Memorial Futurity; by a neck in the finale; and by five lengths in the $50,000 Lafayette in September.

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