07/22/2004 11:00PM

Different look in Blue Skies

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The local handicap division looks different than it did a month ago, when two stakes were run within 13 days of each other at Louisiana Downs and Lone Star Park, and Pie N Burger was favored in both. Sunday, some of the horses who ran in those races will return in the $50,000 Blue Skies Handicap at Louisiana Downs - but not Pie N Burger.

There are also a lot of new shooters, some migrating toward the race because Lone Star is now closed, and others testing the waters because of the absence of Pie N Burger.

Pie N Burger is one of the region's top handicap horses. He won the $50,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap at Louisiana Downs on June 20, then finished second by a neck to Rare Cure in the $75,000 Bob Johnson Handicap at Lone Star Park July 3.

Rare Cure will return for the Blue Skies, and with his defeat of Pie N Burger could vie for favoritism in the 1 1/16-mile race with upstart Akanti. Others making up the nine-horse Blue Skies include Due to Win, a mare who is the second-highest earner in the field, Guaranteed Sweep, and King Zonic.

Akanti should be well supported in his stakes debut. He has won his last two starts by a combined 15 1/4 lengths, first winning for a claiming price of $12,500, then defeating optional claimers by nine lengths June 18.

He earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in his last race, the highest last-race figure among all starters in the Blue Skies. Akanti seems to be at his best on the front end, and could vie for the lead with either King Zonic or Record Assembly.

Akanti is trained by Al Stall Jr. and will be ridden by Lonnie Meche.

Rare Cure was a sharp winner of the Bob Johnson, when he rated behind dueling leaders and was up for the win. He has finished first or second in his last four starts, and is one of the highest earners in the field with a bankroll of $415,450.

Meche records first win in comeback

Donnie Meche won his first race back from a one-year riding suspension on Thursday, when he captured the sixth race aboard General Jones ($3.40). The mount was his 15th since returning to the saddle on July 16.

Meche was suspended for not doing his best to win a trial race at Delta Downs in January 2003.