03/03/2007 12:00AM

Desert Wheat holds off late closer


NEW ORLEANS - Desert Wheat made a timely move to the lead under Corey Lanerie, then held off a furious late charge by Perfect Harmony Saturday to win the $75,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes for older Louisiana-bred horses on the grass at Fair Grounds.

Lanerie took back on Desert Wheat behind an extremely slow pace set by Tommy's Turn, who made the lead early and crawled along through a quarter-mile in 25.21 seconds and a half in 50.80.

"I wasn't really worried about the pace," said Lanerie. "The rail was [20 feet] out and it's slow. I thought he was much the best horse in this spot."

Lanerie sat chilly in last place, saving ground as Tommy's Turn led through six furlongs in 1:16.62. Lanerie found a path through horses in midstretch and sent Desert Wheat to the lead. Perfect Harmony surged late but Desert Wheat held him off by a half-length, finishing the mile in 1:40.65 with a snappy 24.03 last quarter.

"I'm glad we went when we did," said Lanerie. "I could feel the other horse coming to us."

Diggy Fresh was a nose back in third, a half-length in front of Nowandforevermore.

Desert Wheat paid $7.80.

Princess Deelite wins Happy Ticket

Princess Deelite wore down pacesetter Huckie with a determined stretch drive under Jamie Theriot to win the $75,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-bred fillies.

Theriot allowed Princess Deelite to settle early in third place as Lonnie Meche sent Huckie through a quarter mile in 22 and a half in 46.07 with My Friend Bele pressing her. Huckie put that rival away turning for home but could not hold off Princess Deelite's grinding rally to her outside.

Princess Deelite finished 1 1/4 lengths clear of Huckie, with Sara Bon Adeau another half-length back in third and Zarb's Blazing Wish another 2 1/2 lengths back in fourth.

Princess Deelite covered the six furlongs in 1:11.59 and paid $11.60.