11/30/2004 1:00AM

Destiny Calls needs R and R

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Destiny Calls wins the Red Camelia at Fair Grounds last March. She may have to miss Champions Day.

NEW ORLEANS - Destiny Calls is pre-entered for both the Ladies and Turf handicaps on Louisiana Champions Day on Dec. 11, and after a grueling victory in a mile allowance prep on Saturday for her sixth consecutive win, she is being closely watched by trainer Gary Palmisano.

Destiny Calls was a bit off her feed the day after the race. "She doesn't usually do that," Palmisano said. "She usually gobbles it right up. She didn't like that cuppy, tiring track and was fighting it all the way around."

Saturday's race was only the second start back for Destiny Calls since she was turned out over the summer to recover from minor ankle surgery.

"The ankle is fine," said Palmisano, who added that Destiny Calls was short on conditioning going into the race. "She got a little sick on me after that Oct. 23 race so she missed a couple of works. She got really tired Saturday, and it's either going to be a benefit for her or conceivably she could bounce. If she doesn't respond when we take her to the track later in the week, we may decide to wait on her."

Palmisano knows that Destiny Calls will have to be on top of her game to beat the undefeated Happy Ticket in the Ladies race. "I was 80 percent over the weekend and I lucked out and won," said Palmisano. "If I'm 80 percent against Happy Ticket . . . well, somebody's got to lose. But this filly is as hard as nails. I think she's going to bounce back."

Palmisano will jog her toward the end of the week but has no plans to work Destiny Calls before Champions Day.

Kentucky shippers hit Fair Grounds

Nearly 300 horses and a handful of Kentucky-based trainers headed for Fair Grounds after Churchill Downs wrapped up its fall meet Saturday. By Monday the horse traffic during morning training hours over the main track was noticeably heavier than it had been all last week.

Neil Howard stood outside his barn office and sized up the string of horses he shipped down from Kentucky for a winter in New Orleans.

"I just got here yesterday," said Howard, who has been a fixture at Fair Grounds for the last two decades. "It's good to be back."

Howard has a pair of 2-year-old colts, Patriot Act and Student Council, nominated to the Louisiana Derby. "I'm optimistic about Patriot Act," he said.

The colt ran second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Student Council has only a fourth-place finish to his credit in three races, but Howard expects improvement.

"He's a nice colt," he said. "We had to take a chip out of him that was pinching his leg. He's a big colt and sometimes they take time to develop."

Howard was diplomatic about the change in ownership at Fair Grounds from the Krantz family to Churchill Downs Inc.

"I can't say anything bad about the previous ownership because they were very good to me," he said. "If there had to be a change, Churchill is the best possible outcome. They are an extremely professional organization that knows how to run a horse racing operation, and it's a natural fit between the fall and spring season in Kentucky.

Louisiana Derby draws 113 nominees

Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko tops a list of 112 colts and one filly nominated to the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby, to be run March 13. Sense of Style, winner of the Spinaway and Matron, is the lone filly nominated.

The list is heavy with stakes winners, including Park Avenue Ball, Storm Surge, Rockport Harbor, Greater Good, Boggy Creek, Dance With Ravens, Doctor Voodoo, Humor at Last, Killenaule, Flamenco, Declan's Moon, Smilin Fine, Defer, and Ready Ruler. Trainer Todd Pletcher nominated 17, including Champagne winner Proud Accolade. Many of the nominees are still maidens, some are unraced, and a few are from outside the country.

Nominations for the Louisiana Derby close March 4 by subscription of $2,500, $4,000 to pass the entry box, and $4,000 to start. Supplemental nominations can be made until March 9.