05/25/2006 11:00PM

Early speed dominant in turf races


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Early speed has fared well over the turf course at the young Louisiana Downs meeting, but last Sunday it bordered on the surreal. All three turf races were dominated by those up front and the resulting payouts had many players scratching their heads.

The fireworks started in the fifth race, a $12,500 claimer for horses that had not won since Feb. 21. Amanda's Fancy had only one win of any kind and after being beaten by 26 lengths and finishing seventh and last against nonwinners-of-two-lifetime in his last start, he was dismissed at 73-1. Bounding out on top under Jose Riquelme, the 5-year-old Amanda's Fancy cleared the full field of 10 early and did not look back after setting legitimate fractions that included a 1:12.97 three-quarter split for the mile race. The winner's comment in the chart simply read "stole it."

In the seventh, Goodbye Beautiful ($35) was not in front the entire way but put pressure on pacesetter Zarpen before the two hooked up at the head of the straight and raced as a team to the wire. It was two lengths farther back to the third-place finisher and with the only two speed horses going off at generous odds, the resulting exacta paid $183.20.

In the ninth, Addison's Mint ($75.80) was asked early to clear and showed the way past every pole to prevail by a neck. The winner emerged narrowly best following a spirited stretch duel with fellow longshot La Zeeza, who stalked before lodging a bid with a quarter-mile remaining. Once again, those playing the early pace angle were rewarded handsomely as the resulting exacta paid a lucrative $742.

"Speed has just been awesome out there," said former riding champ Gerard Melancon. "There are horses that don't look like they belong getting out there and not backing up."

Concern surrounding the use of the turf course during the Fair Grounds meeting here over the winter months has proven completely unfounded as the course grew out extremely lush this spring.

"It seems to be firmer this year," Melancon said. "I don't know if it was the overseeding with rye grass or what but it definitely seems firmer. Even with some rain earlier in the meeting, the horses just haven't been kicking up anything at all."

* Sunday's feature is race 1, a $50,000 optional claimer, and bettors may put the speed angle to the test as the lone front-runner appears to be , who will be making her first start since a fifth-place finish in the Red Camelia Stakes in January.