06/14/2004 11:00PM

Coming home good move for Stall


Trainer Al Stall Jr.'s return to Louisiana Downs has been a resounding success. The trainer won four races over the track's opening weekend, and for an encore won with four of five starters last weekend. Stall had three winners on Saturday and a day later sent out Skymeister to win the $50,000 Arcadia Stakes.

Overall, he has won with 10 of his 27 starters this meet to rank third in the standings to leader Cole Norman.

Stall has a stable of 30 horses at Louisiana Downs, and also keeps a division at Churchill Downs. It has been years since he has had a stable in Bossier City, La.

"I don't know the last year I was there, honestly," he said. "It's been six, seven, or eight years. We'd been going to Chicago, but we're from Louisiana. The Louisiana-bred program is picking up, and we decided to go to Shreveport. I was nervous about doing it, but it's worked out better than I thought."

Stall said he has been impressed with the makeover at Louisiana Downs, which has been purchased by Harrah's Entertainment and undergone extensive renovations. Slots have also been installed, pushing purses to $200,000 a day.

Stall, 42, is a native of New Orleans. He began training on his own in 1991 after serving as an assistant to Frank Brothers, who won a record nine training titles at Louisiana Downs. Stall went on to win two training titles of his own at Fair Grounds. Some of the best horses he has trained include Grade 1 winner Joyeux Danseur, Moonlight Dancer, Discreet Hero, Daylight Ridge, and 13-time stakes winner Wild Lightning.

Stall, who plans to send a division to Saratoga this summer, said following the close of Churchill Downs next month, he will likely send some more horses to Louisiana Downs. His run Saturday started in the seventh race with Crown Me Later ($3.40). He went on to win the eighth with Rouxbee ($16.60) and the 11th with Postulant ($9.40).

Sunday, Skymeister ($8) picked up his second win at the meet when he wired the field in the Arcadia. The horse was also making his second start for Stall after being purchased on closing day of the Fair Grounds meet in March. Skymeister could make his next start in the $70,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds on Aug. 8.

Turf for Merry Me in Spring

Merry Me in Spring, who was an impressive debut winner in her last start May 28, will make the move to two turns and turf in the featured 10th race Thursday at Louisiana Downs. The entry-level allowance will be run at about a mile on turf, and it drew a full field of 11 fillies and mares, including the promising Italian Riviera.

Merry Me in Spring used stalking tactics to win a seven-furlong maiden race by 5 1/4 lengths at Louisiana Downs. Since then, she shows a seven-furlong work in preparation for her two-turn debut Thursday.

"The farther she goes, the better she's going to be," said Sam David Jr., who trains Merry Me in Spring for Derby Fever Stables.

John Jacinto has the return call on Merry Me in Spring, a 3-year-old by Wekiva Springs out of five-time stakes winner Merry Deputy.

The chief threat could be Italian Riviera, who was second at this level in her last start. A front-runner, Italian Riviera used her speed to win her maiden at Lone Star on April 15, rolling home by 4 1/4 lengths. Italian Riviera, a 3-year-old by Cozzene, is trained by Larry Robideaux and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.