07/18/2007 11:00PM

Desert Wheat back home


BOSSIER CITY, La - Desert Wheat, who has been racing in Kentucky, returns to his home state Saturday as he takes on 11 rivals in the Shiskabob Stakes. The 1 1/16-mile grass affair anchors an all stakes 13-race program restricted to those bred in Louisiana. All of the races carry a $100,000 purse.

The Shiskabob also will mark a homecoming of sorts for Desert Wheat's trainer, Bill Mott. A regular here in the 80s and early 90s, Mott sent out such winners as Mrs. Revere in the 1986 edition of the Grade 3 River Cities Breeders' Cup, and Phantom Breeze, victorious in the 1990 edition of the Louisiana Downs Handicap.

Desert Wheat won two stakes for Louisiana-breds last winter at Fair Grounds. Following his Fair Grounds campaign, which also included a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap won by Einstein, Desert Wheat competed at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs. His best finish was a runner-up performance against optional claiming foes at Churchill Downs in mid-May.

A 4-year-old Wheaton colt, Desert Wheat has been given the last six weeks off by Mott, who is adding blinkers to Desert Wheat's equipment for the Shiskabob. Corey Lanerie, a Louisiana native, will be in to handle the riding assignment.

While Desert Wheat is a solid favorite in the Shiskabob, the battle for second choice on the tote board is far less clear-cut.

Diggy Fresh comes off a second over the Evangeline main track on Legends Night three weeks ago in the Pola Benoit, posting a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 91. Donnie Meche rides for trainer James Hodges.

Willist, victorious in the John Franks Memorial Stakes here Mayo12, returns to his favorite course and distance for trainer Kelly Broussard. Kirk LeBlanc will be in the saddle.

Chip Hunter, also trained by Hodges, comes off a sharp win in optional company here June 9. That effort came after finishing third to Willist in the John Franks and further improvement may be in order. Carlos Gonzalez will be on board.

There is a 50 percent chance of rain for Saturday. Should the race get moved to a muddy main track, Grand Minit would seem to benefit more than most. The Al Stall Jr. charge sports a 75 percent success rate in the exacta over off tracks and most recently won the Benoit over Diggy Fresh.