07/05/2006 11:00PM

Commander Buck and Meche a good fit

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Commander Buck and apprentice Cody Meche each earned the first stakes win of his career on Saturday at Louisiana Downs, when they teamed to capture the $75,000 Independence Handicap.

The 1 1/16-mile race was moved from the turf to the main track because of inclement weather, and Commander Buck set a strong pace and finished well, covering the 1 1/16 miles over a track labeled wet-fast in 1:42.74.

"He ran a big race," said Tom Howard, who trains Commander Buck. "I was very proud of him. He ran his race, the kind of race he likes to run."

Commander Buck likes the front end, and he won an optional claimer at Oaklawn Park on the lead in March. He came back to run second in both the $75,000 John Henry at Evangeline Downs and the $50,000 Barksdale Handicap on turf at Louisiana Downs before winning a stakes of his own in the Independence.

Meche teamed with him for the first time in the Barksdale, and fits Commander Buck, said Howard. The trainer has also used Meche on other starters this meet, where Howard is winning at a rate of better than 22 percent.

"He's a good kid, and hard-trying," said Howard.

Howard said Commander Buck came out of the Independence in "super" fashion, and had fun with the some of the other animals in the barn on Tuesday.

"He was wanting to play with the chickens this morning," he said. "He was walking [the shed row] and he was wanting to pick at them. He was playing, and came out of the race real good."

The next stop, Howard said, could be the $75,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on dirt at Louisiana Downs on July 22. Commander Buck races for Lewis Matthews Jr.

Aly's Vow on course for DeBartolo

Aly's Vow is peaking at an opportune time for owner Robert Orth and trainer Wes Hawley. She won her third straight race on the turf last Saturday in the $60,000 Lone Star Oaks at Lone Star Park, and with the win became a top local hope for the $200,000 Marie P. DeBartolo Oaks at Louisiana Downs on the Super Derby undercard Sept. 23.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race, worth $75,000 a year ago, is now the meet objective for Aly's Vow. She won back-to-back allowances over the Louisiana Downs turf course in May and June before traveling to Texas and winning at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Lone Star.

"She ran a good race," said Hawley. "She's a good filly. She's won her last three. She's just a nice, nice filly."

Aly's Vow won her maiden at Oaklawn Park in February. She was unplaced in two subsequent starts there, an optional claimer and the $100,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup.

"The two races at Oaklawn, she got in trouble," said Hawley. "She got stepped on leaving the gate in the Instant Racing."

Aly's Vow returned to action in May and won the first of her two turf allowances. Now a winner on dirt and turf, she has a number of upcoming options. Hawley said there is an outside chance she could ship out of state for another stakes, but right now he and Orth are looking at their immediate options at Louisiana Downs: the $50,000 Senorita on dirt Aug. 5 and $75,000 Lyrique Handicap on turf Aug. 26.

"The DeBartolo is the main goal," Hawley said. "There's not too many $200,000 races for 3-year-old fillies in your backyard."

Aly's Vow is a daughter of Broken Vow.

Real Quiet Man to Middleground

Real Quiet Man's stock is on the rise. Last month, he was second to Great Hunter in a maiden race. Sunday, he won his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at Louisiana Downs. And on Tuesday night, Great Hunter finished second in the Grade 3 Hollywood Park Juvenile Championship.

Real Quiet Man won a five-furlong maiden race using stalking tactics under Donnie Meche. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 70.

"He was very impressive," said Cole Norman, who trains Real Quiet Man. "This colt is getting better and better. He's got some talent."

Norman said Real Quiet Man will be pointed for the $65,000 Middleground Breeders' Cup Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs at Lone Star Park on July 23. The colt is a February foal by Real Quiet.

"He's really grown here lately," Norman said. "He's lost that baby fat. He's a good-sized colt. He'll be a nice looking 3-year-old."

Real Quiet Man is owned by Vincente Rodarte.

Nicks strong on turf

Trainer Morris Nicks has been close to unstoppable over the Louisiana Downs turf course, with an 8-for-16 record this meet. And although his best older turf runner, Northern Scene, was scratched from the Independence because a rainstorm moved the race to the main track, Nicks still had big success over the turf course last week, sending out two winners on turf on Sunday.

He will be back in action on the local grass course Friday, when he sends out leading contender I'majoanietoo in the first race, an optional claimer for fillies and mares over 7 1/2 furlongs. In her last start, I'majoanietoo was third at a mile on turf in her first out since March. Lonnie Meche, who was aboard both of Nicks's turf winners Sunday, has the mount. Other leading contenders in the race are Ciel Classic, De's Sweet Dream, and Gennie's Challenge.