08/02/2004 11:00PM

Cryptograph on target for Super Derby


Trainer Donnie Von Hemel has started two horses in the Super Derby and both finished third at odds of more than 50-1. Crypto-graph will be a much shorter price next month when he starts in the 1 1/8-mile Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

The Super Derby, a Grade 2, $500,000 stakes to be run on Sept. 25, is the next major objective for Cryptograph following his powerful win in last month's $100,000 Round Table at Arlington Park.

"He had to overcome a wide trip the entire way," said Von Hemel, who trains Cryptograph. "He did it very professionally.

"He kind of pricked his ears at the wire, like he had a little more in the tank."

Von Hemel's two starters in the Super Derby were Sir Tiff, who was third to Arch at 52-1 in 1998, and Zeeruler, third to Free Spirit's Joy at 53-1 in 1991.

Cryptograph's record and sharp form will make him one to reckon with in this year's Super Derby. The Round Table, also run over 1 1/8 miles, was his second stakes win of the season. His first came in April in the $75,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, a race moved to the main track because of rain. Cryptograph rallied fast through the stretch for the win under regular rider Don Pettinger.

Overall, Cryptograph has won 5 of 9 starts for Pin Oak Stable. He is by Cryptoclearance and out of a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Peaks and Valleys. Cryptograph was bred in Kentucky by Pin Oak Stud.

Von Hemel said a decision has not yet been made whether Cryptograph would start in the $60,000 Prelude at Louisiana Downs on Aug. 28. That race, which will be run over 1 1/16 miles, is a local prep for the Super Derby.

Nicks strong in allowances

Trainer Morris Nicks, who has won with more than 35 percent of his starters this meet, has top contenders in the two richest races on the card on Thursday. In the ninth, he will send out Abbeys Runner in a seven-furlong allowance for fillies and mares, while Tika's Best will shoot for her third straight win in the 10th, a first-level allowance for fillies and mares at about a mile on the turf.

Abbeys Runner invades from Churchill Downs, where she has been picking up checks in entry-level allowance races. She raced at six furlongs last out, but her best recent race came at seven furlongs. Nicks has given the mount to leading rider Lonnie Meche.

Meche will also be aboard Tika's Best, who has won her last two starts by a combined nine lengths. Overall, she has won 3 of her 4 starts at the current meet.

Nicks, who has won with half of his eight turf starters at the meet, has compiled a 14-for-36 record this meet to rank fifth in the standings behind runaway leader Cole Norman.

Varoom impressive debut winner

Norman sent out a promising debut winner last Friday. Varoom, a 3-year-old by Cozzene, is the first foal and first winner for his stakes-winning dam, Storm Me September. He romped by 10 lengths in a maiden special weight race, earning an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

Varoom, who is 3, races for Gary and Mary West Stables and was ridden by John Jacinto.

Storm Me September raced in this region, and was a three-time stakes winner, with one of those victories coming at Remington Park.

* Placid Star and Happy Ticket are expected to meet for the first time on Saturday in the $70,000 Elge Rasberry for Louisiana-bred fillies at Louisiana Downs.