05/13/2004 12:00AM

Evangeline: Old Lee tops Rayburn


CARENCRO, La. - Old Lee, entered against older company in the John Franks Memorial Stakes on Friday at Louisiana Downs, runs instead in Saturday night's B.B. "Sixty" Rayburn Stakes against fellow Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds at Evangeline Downs. A one-mile race, the Rayburn Stakes drew a field of eight and is worth $40,000.

Owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and trained by Sam David Jr., Old Lee is coming off a runner-up finish in the Gentilly Handicap on the Fair Grounds turf March 20. Old Lee's last try on the dirt came at Delta Downs on Feb. 7, when he captured the $125,000 Louisiana Premier Prince Stakes with a furious late rally. The field in the Rayburn has sufficient speed to once again set up Old Lee's late charge. Regular rider E. J. Perrodin will once again be in the saddle at 120 pounds.

Valid Faith, owned by Maria Deville and Kenny Gillen, appears the main obstacle for Old Lee. Valid Faith has the benefit of a couple of starts at the meeting, his most recent being an entry-level allowance win May 6. Before that, Valid Faith finished an even fourth in the Inaugural Handicap going six furlongs, indicating that some added distance will be to his liking. Tracy Hebert gets the call at 118 pounds.

Brandon's Marfa also rates strongly, having just missed to Old Lee when they met at Delta in February. Brandon's Marfa also ran well in the Inaugural, where he staged a late bid to finish third. He has never finished worse than third on the dirt.